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WA Governor Urges Schools To Consider Sending More Students Back To School

TVW screenshot

Washington state officials say they’re updating the guidance they offer school districts looking to reopen classrooms. Spokane school administrators say they're ready to consider it.

Governor Jay Inslee says the districts’ experiences with various forms of school this fall have shown in-person classes have shown some interesting trends.

“There really is relatively small additional risk if you have good safety and health protocols," Inslee said. "We see it as our task to make sure that when our students go back, when our educators go back that we follow these sound practices of health and safety protocols to keep people safe. When we do that, we now have both that scientific data I’ve just shown you and experience to give us high confidence.”

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal says the new guidance applies to districts in three categories. Those are for schools in counties where Covid rates are low, moderate and high.

In the “low” spread counties, he says, in-person learning should be available for all students. In the “moderate” counties, he says in-person learning should be phased in, beginning with the youngest students. In “high” spread areas, in-person instruction should only be available for elementary and high-needs children in groups of 15 or fewer.

Spokane School Superintendent Adam Swinyard says his district is reviewing the new school reopening guidelines.

Spokane currently provides in-school instruction for students in kindergarten-through-second grades, as well as students with special needs. He says the district has shown a very low rate of Covid infection within schools. Of 140 confirmed cases since early October, he says all but seven infections occurred outside of school.

Swinyard says his district is confident it can carry out the governor’s wish that students up to fifth grade return to school.

"We will spend the next couple weeks developing a phasing plan for additional grade levels in preparation to share that plan with the school board and community the first week of January," he said.

The district is one of 10 recently chosen by the state Department of Health to participate in a new Covid testing program. The district will open four school sites where curbside, same-day testing is available to staff and students who show coronavirus symptoms and want to be tested. That program is scheduled to begin around January 4.