Governor Inslee to issue executive order re-opening Washington’s schools

Inslee
Image Credit: Gov. Jay Inslee, Twitter

OLYMPIA, Wash. — During a press conference on Friday morning, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that he’ll issue an executive order early next week to get children back into schools for in-person learning. As part of the order, the Governor is touching on a variety of issues related to the return-to-school including pathways for families who aren’t ready to take this step yet.

As part of the order, Gov. Inslee is requiring that all schools (K-12) allow students/families to opt into a hybrid learning model. Additionally, the following stipulations must be met under the Governor’s order:

  • By April 5, all K-6 students must be provided with an opportunity to engage in a hybrid model of instruction; and
  • By April  19, 2021, all other K-12 students must be provided with an opportunity to engage in a hybrid model of instruction.

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Students must be offered at least two days per week of on-site instruction under this order. Whether they choose to take it is a different question entirely, but the Governor’s office confirms that the state is expecting more from its schools in the near future. They will require that “all school districts must meet at least 30% of average weekly instructional hours as on-campus, in-person instruction for all K-12 students” beginning as early as April 19, 2021.

Joined by the chair of pediatrics at Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital in Yakima; Dr. Peter Asante. Being that pediatrics are his expertise, Dr. Asante is an important figure to his community and for Washington’s push for a return to normalcy for students.

“We are now in a bit of a public health crisis when it comes to the impact of school closures on our children. In my clinical practice, I care for many teens who are distressed that they have not been able to return to school — Especially while they’ve seen their friends at private schools resume for in-person instruction,” Dr. Asante said. “I’ve heard many accounts of youth that I take care of within my adolescent clinic who are struggling to stay motivated and to stay in school — Many of whom are experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.”

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Superintendent Chris Reykdal noted that young students are lighting up as they return for in-person learning. In many cases, students have been away from their classmates and in-person learning environments for a year now. The pandemic has been difficult on the children of Washington state — This is an attempt to improve the mental health and behaviors of Washington’s youth. The Superintendent also noted that there has been a drastic increase in Fs, Ds, or Incompletes.

School districts are still required to uphold all of the pre-existing health and safety precautions as students return for more in-person learning. The Governor says that over 200 school districts and 400,000 students have returned for in-person learning up to this point.

Governor Inslee has been inching toward this decision for weeks now, visiting various schools throughout Washington state that have returned for in-person learning. By seeing it done firsthand, the Governor is confident that students can return for in-person instruction safely.

There will be additional safety protocols enforced for the adults at each school building.

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As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, schools throughout the nation will be provided with additional funds to launch back-to-school efforts. According to the Governor’s office, it’s anticipated that Washington schools will be awarded approx. $2.6 billion in federal pandemic relief.

Inslee urges the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to apply a segment of that money to aid the mental health challenges imposed on the state’s youth by the COVID-19 pandemic. He expects the Department of Health and the state Health Care Authority to generate recommendations regarding the mental and behavioral health needs of Washington’s youth.

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