‘I don’t know if we’re coming back to school this year,’ says WA Superintendent
The weeks-long statewide closure of K-12 schools Gov. Jay Inslee ordered last month is set to expire April 24. But with the rest of the state ordered to stay home beyond that date, could school already be out for the summer?
It’s possible, State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal intimated in a video message delivered to families last Friday.
“I don’t know if we’re coming back to school this year,” he noted. “It’s going to be really tough to do because we want to make sure people are safe, and if we rush back to school and put all of us in tight classrooms and bring everyone back into our buildings, there’s a chance that our caseload peaks back up again and that would absolutely be the worst thing for public health.”
He says it’s a decision that will be made by the governor, and that it could come as early as this week.
“I think you should expect to be in the distance learning model for quite a long time,” Reykdal said.
Here in Washington state, advanced placement classes are moving forward, according to Reykdal with many teachers already reaching out to those students with distance plans.
He says the state plans on shrinking their AP assessments this year so students can take it from home within about 45 minutes.
If you have not heard from your AP teacher, Reykdal says you should contact your school or district.
For graduating seniors, Reykdal says not to worry.
“They have requirements by the state for certain credits,” Reykdal said. “Teachers are going to make independent decisions about those students and their knowledge and their ability to meet standards.”
He says the state board of education is also poised to waive some of those credits for students who absolutely need that.
“But it does require a good faith effort,” Reykdal said. “We can’t just put our pencils and pens down and say ‘hey we’re done’ – we’ve got to work through this.”
Reykdal says he’s counting on seniors to keep learning even though it’s springtime, a time that would normally be all about senior celebrations.
“I need you to double down on learning to make sure that you’re going to graduate successfully,” Reykdal said, vowing his office was completely committed to ensuring seniors would graduate.
For other students, distance learning will continue for at least the next month. Depending on your district, that can include online work, video classes or paper packets.
Whether participation in distance learning will count towards a student’s grade will be up to individual districts, since there is no statewide statutory authority for that, according to Reykdal.
But he says for kindergarten through 8th graders, it should be pretty straightforward, with teachers assessing whether a student has an understanding of coursework and is ready to advance. In most — if not all — cases, that will result in a student moving forward.
For high school, things get a bit more complicated.
“Your district is going to decide on whether or not to have letter grades continue forward or to have a pass/no-credit system,” Reykdal explained in his message for high school students.
If schools were to remain closed for the rest of this school year, Reykdal says students would lose about 320 learning hours – or 2.4 percent of a student’s entire education – but Reykdal says his plan is to not have students lose even a full percent of their education.
“We’re going to keep learning through this period, we’re going to work with the Legislature and the governor. We’re going to figure out how to add additional hours next year and perhaps the year after that to try to make sure that instruction happens for everybody,” Reykdal said, stressing that Washington students are not alone with most of the country on lockdown, and some 50 million students in the same boat.