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State officials encourage distance learning and sports postponement

Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health for resuming in-person instruction in public and private K-12 education for the upcoming 2020–2021 school year. 

Inslee was joined by Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and State Health Officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy, to announce new guidance for school reopening.

Inslee says schools in the majority of Washington’s counties should strongly consider online-only learning for students this fall due to COVID-19 and canceling or postponing sports and all other in-person extracurricular activities.

Similar to the state’s county-by-county phased approach to reopening, the plan allows local health departments and school districts decide if and how they will allow students back in the classroom.

The “decision tree” framework issued by DOH emphasizes that schools are not islands. Community transmission must be low in order for schools to reopen safely for in-person learning.

“We know the uncertainty surrounding school reopening is a source of extraordinary anxiety for parents and educators — anxiety not just about whether it’s safe to go back to school in person, but also about the impacts to children if they don’t return to the classroom,” Inslee said.

The plan includes several different considerations for deciding whether or not to return to in-person learning, but no matter the county, when COVID-19 infection rates are high, the state strongly recommends school districts move to mostly online or remote learning.

DOH’s “decision tree” framework offers metrics based on three COVID-19 activity levels in counties: 

  • More than 75 cases per 100,000 in 14 days is considered a high COVID-19 activity level for a community. At this level, DOH recommends distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning who need it most – such as children with disabilities. Sports and extra curricular activities should remain on pause. 
  • 25–75 cases per 100,000 in 14 days is considered a moderate COVID-19 activity level. At this level, DOH recommends distance learning as described above, with gradual expansion of in-person education, beginning with elementary students. Younger students under the age of 10 benefit the most from in-person learning while also posing less risk for transmitting COVID-19 than older students. Most sports and extra curricular activities should remain on pause. 
  • Below 25 cases per 100,000 in 14 days is considered a low COVID-19 activity level. At this level, DOH recommends full-time in-person learning for all elementary students and hybrid learning for middle and high school, eventually moving to in-person for middle and high school.  

Plans regarding school reopening are made by the local health jurisdiction and school district. Parents can find the most up-to-date information about their child’s school by contacting district or school administrators. 

Read more on the governor’s Medium page.


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