MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Washington PTA director: Not ‘enough time’ to prepare for effective remote learning

Aug 25, 2020, 7:43 AM | Updated: 9:00 am

remote learning...

Doral Academy Red Rock Elementary School fourth grader Reaghan Keeler, 9, takes an online reading class from her bedroom on her first day of distance learning amid the spread of COVID-19 on Aug. 24, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

School districts, educators, and parents have been preparing since last spring for remote learning to continue into the fall, but Andrew Estep, executive director of the Washington State Parent Teacher Association, says some districts are still not ready.

In a virtual town hall Monday, Estep said there are still big problems with online access for all students. He thinks remote learning this fall will be far from excellent.

“The three months of summer that we’ve had still hasn’t been enough time, not to adequately provide for all of the changes that would need to be made in order to virtualize this effectively,” Estep said. “So it’s still not going to be happy.”

While research indicates that kids learn best in the classroom, Estep did say that in-person learning should only resume once it’s safe for everyone.

“There’s so much data out there, so much science out there that tells us that education happens best in the classroom,” he said. “And we saw, this last spring, how very difficult it was to try to do this remotely.”

The WSPTA is following the guidance of state and local health officials to determine when classes can meet in person again.

“The guidance is follow the rules of the county public health department. If the county public health department says don’t meet, then we don’t have school in classrooms,” Estep said.

“The guidance that’s come out of the state is one that is based on the local environment,” he added. “We are not able to say we are for this or for that, what we are for is safety in that school.”

Gov. Inslee’s office previously urged most schools in Washington state to consider enacting distance learning when school resumes in the fall due to the high rate of COVID-19 community transmission in many counties. This was only a recommendation, not a legally binding requirement.

Inslee also separated counties into three categories — high risk, moderate risk, and low risk — in terms of what the plan for in-person classes should be in the fall based on risk. Inslee “strongly” recommended distance learning for students at every level in high-risk counties.

U.S. Representative Denny Heck is hosting the back to school live town hall series on his Facebook page. Estep was the first guest speaker. State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, will speak on Aug. 31.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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