Governor Jay Inslee has strongly recommended that school districts move to mostly online or remote learning for the Fall 2020 semester, due to the increases in COVID-19 cases in Washington State.
Inslee, along with Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction, detailed a plan on Wednesday that allows local health departments and school districts to decide if and how they will allow students back in the classroom.
The plan was broken down into three parts “based on categories of disease transmission level, as measured by the incidence of cases per 100,000 residents over a two week period: High risk, moderate risk, and low risk.”
Currently, the majority of Washington counties currently fall in the high and moderate risk categories.
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Schools in high-risk counties are “strongly encouraged to consider distance learning, with exceptions for in-person learning for small groups of students with the highest need in addition to canceling in-person extracurricular activities.”
Moderate-risk counties including Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Island, Lincoln, Thurston, Whatcom, and Whitman are “strongly encouraged to consider distance learning for middle and high schools, with possible in-person learning options for elementary students.”
Low-risk counties including Asotin, Garfield, Jefferson, San Juan, and Wahkiakum Counties are “encouraged to implement a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning for middle school and high school students, and full-time in-person learning for elementary students.”
“While in-person instruction is the goal, the health and safety of our students and staff is paramount,” said Reykdal during a press conference.
“In order to implement in-person learning, schools must be able to implement state recommendations and state health requirements that have already been issued. This includes requiring masks, protecting those at higher risk of complications, social distancing, and environmental cleaning.”
Ultimately, the decision of whether schools will take place in-person or online will fall on the counties themselves.