With social distancing restrictions, children can go back to class this fall, state superintendent says

State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal

Children across the state can go back to class this fall.

That’s the guidance from State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal. who briefed reporters in Olympia Thursday. “We are opening this fall, provided everyone can be safe,” he said.

How each district opens is up to the local school boards. Edmonds School District has not yet commented on its plans. “Our team is going to dig into the information and we will be sending out a statement in response to the guidelines soon,” district spokesperson Harmony Weinberg said. “But we will need time to digest the information.”

Gov. Jay Inslee added that “if COVID cases spike or spread, we may need to reassess this plan.  We cannot guarantee that school will open in fall. But, for now, this guidance provides a path that schools, educators and families need to plan for the coming months and the fall. Kids need to be learning but they also need to be safe and healthy.”

For Edmonds School District families, it means that nearly 22,000 kids from kindergarten through 12th grade — and more than 1,200 teachers in 34 schools — should be back in their classrooms in September.

In a Facebook Live news conference, Reykdal said that “after an incredible effort” by a task force of parents, administrators, students, teachers, counselors and businesses, reopening is the “most equitable thing we can do today.” But, going back to class comes with conditions for every district: face masks for everyone, desks 6 feet apart and social distancing throughout all schools. Reykdal warns that “this is not business as usual.”

This is what the State Superintendent outlined:

  • Majority of districts return to classrooms
  • Health and social distancing rules in place
  • Desks 6 feet apart
  • Teachers wear masks/face shields – school district provides them
  • Students wear masks – family or community provides them
  • Lunch – students bring lunch/cafeterias have grab-and-go meals
  • Recess – social distancing rules in place
  • Buses will run, with social distancing required
    • Drivers will wear masks/face shields
    • Buses will have more Plexiglas partitions
  • High school/middle school sports
    • “No guidance to resume sports yet,” Reykdal said.
    • The state and county health departments and the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association are working on guidelines

To read the entire schools’ reopening plan, click here.

Reykdal said he understands that “there are lots of folks who will be concerned and maybe afraid,” especially families with children who are considered health vulnerable or who have a vulnerable adult at home.

He admits it may be necessary for some districts to begin with split schedules every other day or week. Others may have to phase in classroom teaching; beginning he suggests, by bringing elementary students back to class first, and continuing distance/online learning for middle and high school classes.

The state says local school boards must design reopening models that will ensure safety and education for all their children. Each district must file a copy of its reopening with the state superintendent, but Reykdal says his office does not haves the resources to see that districts comply. That, he says, is up to each district.

Rekykdal is asking that the moratorium on standardized testing be continued next year. He also believes it’s time for the state to move to a “more reliable testing structure,” adding that “we need to get rid of this test obsession.”

If there is a second wave of new coronavirus cases, the superintendent and the governor warn that affected districts must be prepared to shut down again. Both hope that communities will work together to minimize virus spikes, adding that there is too much at stake to jeopardize a return to school for all children.

— By Bob Throndsen










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