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School Boards Wrestle With Decisions About In-Class Instruction

Mead School District/Zoom

UPDATED: The Deer Park School District has voted to allow in-person instruction for students, joining Mead and East Valley as Spokane-area districts that will have students in classrooms as the academic year begins.

Tonight [Monday] the Mead school board will decide whether to postpone for a couple of weeks the start of the academic year.

They're part of the debate between those who believe opening schools is too risky and those who say not opening them is also risky. 

Last week, after the Mead and East Valley school boards endorsed in-class instruction as an option for students this fall, Health Officer Bob Lutz made clear how he believes. He talked about it Monday morning with reporters.

“I stand by that comment that I’m disappointed that they’ve taken that tack. That’s their choice. That’s their prerogative. As we’ve mentioned before, I provide guidance and recommendations, not mandates," he said.

Many superintendents and school board members such as Mead’s Carmen Green have said these are among the toughest decisions they had to make as educators.  

“It’s not just about, most importantly, their academic education, but they’re also their social and emotional well being, the many interventions we put into place. The students who are at risk at home," Green said.

Last week, a few of Green’s colleagues said they’ve done more homework on this issue than any other they’ve encountered during their board service.

They and board members from other districts say they’re feeling pressure from parents who want their children to go back to school. Mead Superintendent Shawn Woodward estimated 70% of his parents will choose the in-person option.

Lutz says he understands that and says there are cases where districts can safely create in-person instructional opportunities.

“You have young kiddos, K-2, where remote learning is just really challenging. Or you have students with special learning needs. I think those are very reasonable options to consider in person," Lutz said.

But he’s convinced that hybrid learning options will lead to Covid spread and the shutdown of schools. That, he says, will cause logistical nightmares, not just for the families with sick children and family members, but anyone else with a stake in those schools. 

Still, Mead board member Michael Cannon says the debate and all that goes along with it isn’t helpful.

“We have an opportunity to convert this discussion from a side-choosing kind of mentality to needs-meeting scenario where we can create options.”

And one of those options is allowing children to go to school and learn face-to-face with a teacher.