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State superintendent says most schools should reopen in person in the fall

Roosevelt High School in Seattle
Ashley Gross
Roosevelt High School in Seattle

For many families, it will come as a relief to hear that the state superintendent said most schools should reopen in person in the fall.

The abrupt shift to distance learning this spring was difficult for many students and families to manage. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said it also had a disproportionate impact on students who lacked technology or internet.

Now he’s issued guidance to school districts on how they can reopen in compliance with new state Department of Health requirements. The guidance is based on recommendations developed by a workgroup of more than 100 people, including educators, school leaders, parents and students. Reykdal said there will be some changes to school routine.

“Now it’s going to have social distancing requirements and it’s going to have a face covering requirement and hygiene protocols and some screening protocols as students come in,” he said.

Reykdal said districts also need to make plans for how to continue learning in case health officials say it’s unsafe for all students to be in school at the same time. The guidance includes several options for districts. For example, one option would be to put students on an A-B schedule where they attend school in person some days and learn from home the other days. Another would be a phased reopening of school for different grades. And the third would be what he calls “Continuous Learning 2.0.”

Districts need to improve how educators teach online to make it easier for families to access and ensure everyone has a computer and the ability to get online, he said. The aim is to ensure teachers receive more professional development to make this possible, he said.

Teachers responded through the Washington Education Association to say they share the goal of reopening school, but question whether physical distancing is possible given class sizes. And the statewide labor group says districts will have to engage with local unions to develop best practices.

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.