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Gov. Inslee orders Washington schools closed for remainder of year

Gov. Inslee announces schools will be closed through the rest of the school year. (TVW)

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday that private and public K-12 schools across Washington will be closed for the remainder of the school year.

“All schools will continue distance learning through the end of this school year,” Inslee said.

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The six-week statewide closure of all K-12 schools ordered by Inslee last month was set to expire April 24. With the extension of the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy initiative to May 4, many have wondered what would mean for schools.

“We know the value of school and the power of learning, and we are nervous about that,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

“While learning is of paramount duty to the state, the health of the people is first and foremost,” Reykdal added. “We do not want that curve to suddenly spike back up because we acted too quickly to come back.”

He asked the private sector to help public education support children across the state, emphasizing that connectivity is a right that should be as significant as access to clean water.

“The disease is compelling us to have an education challenge, but our task is to rise to it,” he said.

Reykdal also spoke about strengthening distance learning plans to prepare for this crisis, and anything that may arise in the future.

“We will never replace face-to-face learning.”

The last day of school in Seattle was scheduled for June 18.

Last week, in a video to families, Reykdal hinted that schools may be closed the rest of the year.

“I don’t know if we’re coming back to school this year,” he said.  “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.”

Starting March 30, all districts were to have a system in place for distance learning, with a variety of strategies being implemented statewide, including paper packets, online learning, and video classes. School leaders are continuing to evaluate student needs and refine distance learning strategies.

Reykdal has previously emphasized the importance of ensuring that all seniors can graduate on time, as his office continues to work with districts to help students meet graduation requirements.

Graduating seniors

For graduating seniors, Reykdal said 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 said 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 said he’s counting on seniors to keep learning even though it’s springtime, a time that would normally be all about senior celebrations.

Coping with added stress during the coronavirus outbreak

“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.

He also reminded parents, families, and students that Washington schools are not alone in this, as more than 50 million students nationwide are out of school with dozens more states expected to close for the rest of the school year.

Public and private universities in the state have already started spring quarter on a remote learning model, including the University of Washington and Washington State University.

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