PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday that students in Washington state will not go back to school this year.
He held a press conference on Monday afternoon with the Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.
“We know distance learning can never replace the learning and benefits that students get from attending school. But this unprecedented health emergency demands we take this step. We are asking districts and educators to do their best during this time…and to perfect the distance learning model,” Inslee said.
He said he is concerned with making sure seniors receive all the credits they need to graduate and is working with districts to ensure they will be able to.
Fourteen other states have also closed through the end of the school year. Reykdal said Oregon and Idaho are also considering the move.
Inslee said he is aware that the closure presents challenges for many families and especially those with vulnerable students.
“We know closing schools also presents challenges in the need for equity in education, not only because of internet connectivity issues,” Inslee said.
“Students learning English as a second language, students with disabilities and other vulnerable students. We know this is a challenging time for their learning. We are addressing this by allowing limited school activity for those students in school buildings that really follow social distancing guidelines similar to the health guidelines for childcare,” he said.
Inslee said he was impressed by the alternative and creative learning happening around the state, sharing that his own grandson has started birdwatching as a hobby.
Linda Mullen with the Washington Education Association described the news as devastating for teachers, parents, and students — especially for seniors who won’t have the opportunity to properly close a special chapter in their lives.
“Everybody’s doing the best that they can, whether you’re the teacher, the student, or the parent,” said Mullen. “Those of us who’ve really been through it see it as the milestones and the markers you reflect back on in your high school years.”
She said it’s important for teachers, students, and parents to show grace with ourselves and each other during this tough time.
“It might be heartbreaking because it’s not what we thought it was going to be, but everybody’s working really hard to make it as good as it can be,” said Mullen.
Inslee stressed Washington has not yet reached the peak of the pandemic. Last week, he extended the state’s “stay home” order through May 4.