Announcement Monday ends the wondering; home learning must continue

  WHATCOM — The in-person school year is over, a casualty of the coronavirus fight.

  Gov. Jay Inslee gave the word Monday at a press conference in Olympia with Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. The disease that has taken all of the nation’s healthcare resources to fight, focused on “social distancing,” will close down Washington state K-12 schools for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year.

  Although not unexpected, it was made official that traditional schooling will not resume April 27, as hoped. The statewide closure in the face of the COVID-19 threat began March 17.

  The governor and schools chief broke the news to all school district superintendents statewide in a special conference call earlier on Monday.

  It’s a blow to students, especially high school seniors, who will not have the traditional closure and celebratory experiences of their final year. The status of graduation ceremonies, as large gatherings of people at least, seems doubtful.

  Inslee and Reykdal insisted that distance learning between educators and students will continue, and districts are now dealing with how to do that longer, and successfully, meeting state requirements.

  In a question-and-answer session Friday, Reykdal had already said it would be “really tough” to restart traditional classrooms now “because we want to make sure people are safe.”

  “And if we rush back to school and put all of us back 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,” he added.

  Reykdal also said Friday that high school seniors will still be allowed to graduate as long as they meet state requirements.

  The complete closure is needed to continue to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus in the state of Washington, Inslee said. “We don’t know where that peak is ... that’s where we are today.”

  There may be a desire to shorten the course and go back to normal activities. “We just can’t do that,” the governor said.

  Reykdal said that from crisis can emerge innovation, and this situation highlights the need for full preparation for distance education. “We have to get connectivity for all of our students,” he said, as disruptions of tradition classroom education could occur in other ways as well.

  Click here for the reactions of local school districts.