Washington Governor pushes for students to return for in-person learning

Ted S. Warren
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, talks with a student as teacher Alyson Lykken, center, looks on, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, during a visit to a low-incidence disability classroom at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley, Wash.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — During his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that the state is progressing toward a fully realized return to in-person learning.

Washington is increasing the number of days that its schools may be open for in-person learning. Pleased be advised that parents can still opt to keep their children in remote learning. This is crucial for students who live in multi-generational homes with at-risk family members and other extenuating circumstances.

The Governor said that over 175 school districts throughout Washington have adopted some form of in-person learning as of the Spring semester of the 2020-21 school year. Ultimately, Gov. Inslee hopes to see all schools throughout the state return to some form of in-person learning, which is in accordance with guidelines submitted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Governor, vaccinations for teachers aren’t essential for a return to school. That falls in line with guidance from the Washington Department of Health (DOH) and the CDC’s education parameters.

RELATED: Washington Legislature passes graduation waiver measure

To supplement a rapid return to in-person learning, Gov. Inslee announced that the state is partnering with a nonprofit group called the Health Commons Project. They will assist in providing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in funding to increase COVID-19 testing in school districts throughout Washington.

This funding will assist in expanding COVID-19 testing in 50 other school districts that need these funds to bring students back into school buildings. However, school districts throughout the state will receive part of the federal, state and non-profit funding they need to undertake a back-to-school operation of this size given the circumstances imposed by the pandemic.

“We can have on-sight education in a safe and effective way,” Gov. Inslee said. “We have the knowledge of how to do this safely and that knowledge has been given to us by our educators.”

RELATED: CWU trains 1,000 contact tracers in partnership with DOH

The state is also working on a “Learn to Return” playbooks, which is intended to provide an in-depth look at how to re-open schools as safe as possible. Part of those rulebooks include guidelines about universal masking, ventilation and social distancing in school buildings.

Many families and educators are concerned about students complying with mask mandates in school. School officials, including Enumclaw School District Superintendent Shaun Carey, insist that the students of Washington are doing an excellent job of adhering to mask mandates and have taken on the challenge in order to return to a school environment.

The Governor acknowledged the hard work of educators and school faculty throughout Washington state in adapting to the times. Navigating education during the pandemic has been an extreme hardship for students, parents and teachers throughout the nation, but Washington state is pushing forward in its efforts to get students back to school.

RELATED: Gonzaga hopes to fully return to in-person instruction this fall

RELATED: CDC — Strong evidence in-person schooling can be done safely

RELATED: Affordable childcare is lacking in Washington state, officials say