Gov. Jay Inslee extends school building closures for rest of this school year

OLYMPIA - In mid-March, Gov. Jay Inslee closed all public and private K–12 schools in Washington state through April 24....

“It will look different than we are used to. It will be more flexible, and it will evolve as we learn more and gain experience in the tools available to us.”

Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Schools

 

School buildings closed, but learning continues

OLYMPIA – In mid-March, Governor Jay Inslee closed all public and private K–12 schools in Washington state through April 24. Today, he extended that directive and ordered all school buildings to close throughout the remainder of the 2019–20 school year.

Gov. Inslee has extended the closure of school buildings, both public and private, until the end of the school year. While students can continue to do school work remotely, it is still up in the air as to whether thousands of senior students will have graduating ceremonies.

The governor’s proclamation prohibits in-person instruction through June 19, with exceptions for students with disabilities and English language learners for whom distance learning would present challenges. Facilities remain accessible for limited use, including providing child care and packing take-home meals for students’ families to pick up. All activities must follow Department of Health social distancing guidelines.

“This closure is guided by science and is our greatest opportunity to keep our kids, educators and communities safe,” Inslee said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “If there is any opportunity to bring students back for a few days, including graduation ceremonies for our seniors, we will continue to explore that option. That opportunity will be guided by our collective behavior and the success we can achieve with the choices we make today.”

Inslee said students’ grades will not suffer as a result of the closure and encouraged them to take advantage of remaining learning opportunities. The governor also asked teachers and administrators to work together on the best path forward for the remainder of the school year.

“We have more than 1.2 million students in our state who are impacted by this. Over 80,000 seniors may have attended their last in-person high school class without knowing it,” said Chris Reykdal, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, in response to the extended closure.

“Just as our great-grandparents understood after two World Wars and the Great Depression, this generation will grow up knowing how to persevere in the face of challenges,” said Reykdal. “Especially during times of uncertainty, students need our support. They need grace, and structure, and routine. Even though the world may feel like it’s upside down, our students need to know that we will move forward.”

Reykdal says the next tough months will be tough. “I won’t diminish that. However, learning must continue.”

“It will look different than we are used to. It will be more flexible, and it will evolve as we learn more and gain experience in the tools available to us.”

Over the past three weeks since schools first closed, he says his office has worked tirelessly to provide guidance to school districts, keep the public informed, and problem-solve ways of ensuring all students in the state have access to high-quality continuous learning during this school closure.

“This includes working with our congressional delegation to obtain waivers of some federal requirements in order to provide districts with much needed flexibility, as well as securing additional funding to support this continuous learning. It includes providing school districts with a detailed framework for providing educational services during these unprecedented times, including tools and resources for overcoming inequities in access. It also includes working with internet providers and software leaders to ensure every student and educator within the state has access to a device, home connectivity, and platforms for teaching and learning to take place,” he said.

Reykdal concluded, “This is not to say that moving traditional, in-person instruction to an online model is what is best for every student or every district. However, this is an unprecedented time. This won’t be perfect. But we are a state full of dedicated, talented professionals who will continue running through walls to serve our students.  We will not let the fear of imperfection stand in our way.”

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