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Superintendent Reykdal: Remote learning ‘not successful for a lot of kids’

Emily Valentine, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 teaches students attending class in person on October 01, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

With remote learning continuing for students across Washington state, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal is hoping schools will be able to bring kids back into classrooms sooner rather than later.

“I want grades open — particularly early grades —  and we’re pushing hard for that,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “I think early grades are very safe to bring back on balance.”

Rekydal believes that process should begin with younger kids for a few reasons. First, emerging data appears to indicate that COVID-19 doesn’t spread as widely among children in that demographic.

Secondly, Reykdal points to the fact that when it comes to remote learning, younger students tend to struggle more often than those in higher grades.

“Online learning is not successful for a lot of kids,” he said. “It requires them to be very independent learners, so the opportunity is only really viable for older kids, and some are thriving. Some enjoy it. Most are not.”

“Part of it is this engagement question — they need that comprehensive sense of what school is,” he continues. “I need folks to listen to the whole story about child development and mental health and connectivity and isolation. When they take it on balance, I believe they’ll keep lifting these things and giving our young people a lot more opportunity.”

That decision also isn’t entirely up to Reykdal, who can only issue recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee, the Department of Health, and school districts.

Those limitations have made it difficult to coordinate one, single strategy for schools, making for what Reykdal describes as “some very broken decision-making in the state.”

“Our Legislature locks down the money, separate boards decide whether we can be flexible with credits, and then local school boards have all the legal authority on opening or not,” he detailed. “So we’ve given them all that guidance on how to keep kids safe when they arrive, but there are still unsettled questions.”

In terms of what those recommendations are, Reykdal believes that bringing back organized outdoor recreation for kids is crucial.

Currently, the pandemic has the state dividing sports into low, moderate, and high risk categories. Sports like tennis, swimming, golf, and cross country are considered among the lower-risk sports, while football, rugby, wrestling, and basketball sit on the higher-risk side of the scale.

The hope from Reykdal is that by encouraging kids to get outdoors and start playing sports again, they can regain some semblance of structure, purpose, and social activity.

“They need connection, they need to be with each other, and outdoor athletics is an enormous opportunity,” he said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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