Washington takes ‘step forward’ in returning kids to classrooms

Education

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the time has come to get more students back into classrooms.

Inslee released updated metrics on Wednesday to help local leaders and school officials make decisions about in-person learning. Those metrics include updates to the COVID-19 incidence rates for leaders to consider when deciding which students to prioritize for in-person learning. The state also recommended leaders consider “test positivity and trends in cases and hospitalizations.”

“Today we are taking a step forward in getting school children back in the classroom,” said Inslee. “The science has shown, and our school officials have proven that with diligent focus on health and safety measures, it is possible to bring children back to the classroom while also protecting our students, staff and community from further transmission of COVID-19.”

The Washington Department of Health suggests three categories for re-introducing in-person learning:

  • For schools in counties where COVID-19 cases are “low” (less than 50 residents per 100,000), in-person learning should be made available for all students.
  • In counties where COVID-19 cases are “moderate” (between 50 and 350 residents per 100,000), in-person learning should be phased in, starting with elementary students not already attending in person and middle school students, followed by high school students.
  • Finally, in counties where COVID-19 cases are “high” (over 350,000 per 100,000 residents), it’s recommended that schools should only offer in-person instruction for elementary and high-need students in small groups of 15 students or fewer.
A graph released by Washington state leaders, Dec. 16, 2020. (Office of Gov. Jay Inslee)

In the Camas School District, small groups of students with the highest needs are currently getting in-person instruction but most students are still learning remotely.

Jeff Snell, the superintendent of the Camas School District, said they’ve learned a lot over the last three months. The district has been able to incrementally increase the number of students who are getting in-person experiences. It’s a process that’s varied across the state of Washington.

Deciding how to bring students back for on-site learning will ultimately be up to individual school boards. Superintendent Snell said they will take the skills they’ve learned so far as they move forward.

“It allows us to really start to expand services for students and work hand-in-hand with our staff to really build that trust and build the trust of our parents and families,” he said. “We are going to do right by them and follow those strategies, that we are doing everything we can to be safe.”

Snell said the district is “excited to get started.”

Some parents still planned to hold rallies this week to support a return to classroom teaching. A rally organized by United for In-Person Learning in Clark County will be held at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at all school district offices. Another rally will take place at 3:30 p.m. at the Camas School District office followed by a march downtown past local businesses.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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