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State superintendent’s work group examines ways to possibly reopen schools in the fall

Rachel La Corte
The Associated Press
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal

The statewide school closure to slow the spread of the coronavirus has brought tremendous upheaval to families. Parents are trying to help their children keep up with assignments from home, while many of them juggle work responsibilities or cope with financial stresses stemming from unemployment.

Added to that is a continued lack of internet access for many families that the state and school districts are trying to address — even now, two months after schools were ordered to shut down.

So a big question mark for students and parents across Washington is what school will look like in the fall. Will schools be able to open for in-person instruction?

Chris Reykdal, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, has convened a work group of more than 100 people to identify possible approaches. The group includes teachers, school leaders, parents and state lawmakers. During this week's initial meeting they discussed seven possible scenarios.

Katy Payne, a spokesperson for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, said one idea under consideration would involve different approaches by grade.

“Maybe the elementary schoolers are coming in maybe three days a week, maybe five days a week, but the high schoolers are learning almost exclusively remotely,” she said.

Payne said they're looking to examples from other countries and states that have already begun to reopen schools. She said they're weighing health concerns that educators and parents may have.

“I know that people are worried about the safety aspect. What we’re hearing from some folks is young people don’t seem to be getting hit as hard by this virus as older people, but our older people are the staff in the school,” Payne said. “So it’s not just about the students. They’re not there alone.”

At the same time, OSPI has heard from many teachers who are missing their students and would like to get back to in-person instruction. She said the goal is to have recommendations ready by early June.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.