State issues guidelines for districts to conform to
WHATCOM — Students are expected to be in schools learning in-person this fall if health guidelines are met.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal revealed plans last week that give a broad blueprint of what face-to-face instruction in schools could look like when classes reume.
One of the guidelines set forth is that desks must be spaced six feet apart. Students and staff will also be required to wear face coverings and be screened for general health before entering any school buildings.
In order to reopen in the fall, schools districts must have plans in place to transition from face-to-face instruction to remote learning, if that is suddenly needed. Flexible calendars and having a sustainable remote learning model are also required in case schools must close down in a resurgence of the coronavirus. These plans must be on file with the State Board of Education and the state superintendent’s office.
Lynden School District Superintendent Jim Frey said the district has formed work groups to process the information provided by the state in order to develop plans for the fall.
The work groups are focused on these four areas: instruction and curriculum, technology, social-emotional, and the safety of facilities and operations.
“We have a ways to go before all of the details are determined and will be engaging with state and local agencies over the next few weeks to make sure we understand what are requirements and what we have flexibility on,” Frey said in an email.
The Lynden School District also sent out a survey to families about reopening in the fall. The survey showed most families at all grade levels were comfortable with sending their children back to school come Sept. 1 with little or no concern.
Some of the factors that would make parents more comfortable with returning to school are: symptom checks of staff and students, having sanitizing and cleaning supplies readily available, making sure spaces are regularly cleaned and sanitized, having a hybrid learning model available, and following health departments’ and Centers for Disease Control regulations.
Most families in the Lynden School District also plan to send their children back to school in the fall, with 78.8 percent of respondents answering yes to that question. Only 1.6 percent of respondents answered no and 19.6 percent were uncertain.
For those who answered no or uncertain, a majority of nearly 59 percent said they most supported a hybrid model of both in-person and remote instruction for their children.
Nooksack Valley School District Superintendent Mark Johnson said in a statement that staff are reviewing the guidelines given and working with parents, schools and teams to develop a plan to return to operation in the fall.
Nooksack schools look to maximize in-person instruction, but will also include a contingency for online learning.
The Meridian School District is also looking through the new state guidelines to develop a plan of its own.
Superintendent Linda Quinn of the Ferndale School District said in a statement that a plan to return to school in the fall will be available as soon as possible.
Schools restart the first week of September.