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State superintendent supports school reopening guidelines

Sarita Reyes works on her school assignments on an iPad at her mother's shop, Pinata Time, on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in San Antonio, Texas. With Fiesta canceled, children’s birthday parties called off and government officials pleading with residents to stay home during normally festive holidays, the pandemic presented a noxious brew for “piñateros” in town. (Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

Washington state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal supports new school reopening guidelines laid out by Governor Inslee on Wednesday.

Reykdal says since children are less likely to get coronavirus or shed the virus, they are generally less of a risk.

Gov. Inslee recommends WA schools begin bringing students back into classrooms

“Children are dramatically less likely to ever contract it or to have the symptoms of coughing or sneezing because they’re not as symptomatic,” Reykdal told KIRO Radio.

But he says if kids do get the virus, they can spread it just like adults.

The superintendent says strict safety guidelines are the key to keeping school environments as safe as possible.

Reykdal says younger children are proving more likely to follow coronavirus rules, which is one of the reasons they should come back first. Those rules include wearing masks at all times, maintaining six feet of physical distance whenever possible, improved ventilation, and increased cleaning.

“Particularly younger kids don’t get it as much,” Reykdal told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “They are less symptomatic, and you can open schools even in very large community spread events and keep the school population very safe.”

According to one study led by an economist at Brown University, published in the Association of American Medical Colleges, and one that Gov. Inslee cited on Wednesday, the infection rate among students was 0.13%, and 0.24% among staff who had returned to school in September. The study analyzed 200,000 students and 63,000 staff in 47 states during the last two weeks of September.

Under Gov. Inslee’s new recommendations, King, Pierce and Snohomish County schools meet the coronavirus case target to bring elementary students back to class in groups of 15 or less.

Despite the support among state leaders, and even president-elect Joe Biden, the Washington Education Association has been hesitant about a return to full in-person learning, primarily due to the safety risks to educators.

WEA President Larry Delaney says the trust needed for a return to school “would have been easier to build” if educators had more communication with the governor about these pending changes before they were announced.

Read the WEA’s statement

While WEA agrees attention should be paid to safety requirements when considering a return to in-person learning, Delaney also says there have to be plans in place on “day one,” ensuring there is adequate PPE, distancing, ventilation, and protocols for what should happen if a case is detected. Implementing these guidelines, Delaney adds, will take time.

KIRO Radio’s Diane Duthweiler contributed to this report.

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