By Mario Lotmore | Lynnwood Times
- Grades K-6 must have an in-person option by April 5
- Grades 7-12 must have an in-person option by April 19
- Districts are required to offer 30% of instructional time on-site in classrooms/at least two days per week
- Districts must offer remote and in-person instructional options for all students
- All health and safety guidelines still apply
- 3/13/21 10:45 AM: Mukilteo School District grade 2 students commenced the District’s hybrid learning model on March 8.
- 3/13/21 11:20 AM: The Lake Stevens School District’s response attributed to Communications Director Jayme Taylor is now attributed to Superintendent Dr. Amy Beth Cook.
- 3/13/21 11:20 AM: Added Edmonds School Board President Deborah Kilgore responses.
Snohomish County, March 12, 2021 – Today, Governor Jay Inslee declared children’s mental health an emergency and said he will issue a proclamation that will prohibit any K-12 schools from refusing to offer on-campus in-person instruction.
The proclamation will declare that school districts must provide students the opportunity for both remote instruction and in-person learning which would mandate teachers return to the classroom.
This comes nearly one year since the governor and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal closed school buildings statewide in response to the pandemic.
By April 5, all students in grades kindergarten through six must have the opportunity to engage in a hybrid model of instruction; and by April 19, all other K-12 students must be provided a hybrid model of instruction.
Also by April 19, all school districts must meet at least 30% of average weekly instructional hours as on-campus, in-person instruction for all K-12 students. In addition, under no circumstances may a student be offered less than two days (which may be two partial days) of on-campus, in-person instruction per week.
Governor Inslee further instructed all school districts to exceed the 30% minimum instructional hours, and must reach the school’s maximum capacity and maximum frequency of on-campus, in-person instruction that the school can provide, when all health and safety recommendations are applied, as soon as possible.
“We have asked enough of our students and families,” Inslee said during today’s press conference. “I have been motivated all year to get our students back in school; I have had many conversations with educators; I have toured schools that are back in person across the state; and I have seen the medical evidence, both for COVID transmission in schools and, very importantly, the impact of this pandemic on our children’s mental health.”
The Governor emphasized that in-person instruction must comply with DOH guidance as well as LNI requirements for employee safety as dictated by the School Employer Health and Safety Requirements.
The emergency proclamation will also direct the Department of Health and the state Health Care Authority to immediately begin work on recommendations that would detail how to support the behavioral health needs of students over the next 12 months.
School District Readiness
The spokespersons for the Lake Stevens, Marysville, and Snohomish school districts all told the Lynnwood Times that they feel their districts can meet this accelerated timeline for in-person instruction.
“Our Superintendent and leadership team will fully review the Governor’s proclamation when it becomes available; however, in the Marysville School District, we are already on par with the new mandates,” wrote Jodi Runyon, Marysville School District Director of Communications, in her response to the Lynnwood Times.
“We currently have students in grades Pre through three receiving in-person teaching and learning in a hybrid model. Grades 4 – 5 are scheduled for March 22, and grades 6 – 12 scheduled April 14, all in a hybrid model which provides both in-person and remote teaching and learning”
Dr. Amy Beth Cook , Lake Stevens School District Superintendent, shared that its district currently has a Memorandum of Agreement with the Lake Stevens Education Association to facilitate an April 19th return to its Hybrid In-Person Learning Model for up to grades 12.
Dr. Cook shared that the Lake Stevens School District looks forward to a return to in-person instruction for all students.
“We know that there have been many educational, and social emotional challenges during this pandemic. I am incredibly appreciative of our employees, students, and families for their perseverance and partnership to implement our Hybrid In-Person Learning Model. It is wonderful to have our elementary students back in classrooms, and we look forward to welcoming back our secondary students very soon.
Snohomish School District welcomed back grades 5 and 6 on March 3 to its in-person hybrid learning model. In-person learning commenced for developmental preschool and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) students on February 2; whereas, Kindergarten through grade 2 began on February 22.
Everett Public Schools, which commenced hybrid learning on January 19 for developmental Kindergarten students is currently in Stage 4a of its model. This allows for restricted optional in-person learning for Kindergarten through grade 3. Everett Public Schools anticipates expanding its hybrid learning model to grades 4 and 5 on March 15.
Kathy Reeves, Everett Public School Director of Communication, told the Lynnwood Times that the District will be meeting to assess the impact of the accelerated timeline to return to in-person instruction.
According to the Mukilteo School District’s website, first grade is scheduled to return to optional in-person learning on March 22. ECEAP, preschool, and grade 2 students are currently allowed to participate in the District’s hybrid learning model with Kindergarten tentatively scheduled for March 29.
Diane Bradford, Mukilteo School District Communications and Public Relations Director, shared a similar response as Reeves.
“We just learned of this at the same time everyone else did today. We are naturally happy to have more students receive in-person learning, but there are many things to be worked out and communicated to roughly 15,000 students and their families in a short amount of time.
“District leadership is already working with the new information, sharing with staff and determining next steps. We’ll be communicating with district families as soon as possible.
“This is a coordinated response from the school board and district. It is so early in the game, but I am certain we will have more to share later.”
Edmonds School District (ESD) is currently in Stage 1 of its four-stage model – technically there are five stages as post-stage 4 is a full return to normal in-person operations. Stage 1 provides for limited Special Education programs and services in some schools with Stage 2 set to begin March 22. In-person hybrid learning for 2nd grade is scheduled to begin March 22 with 1st grade and Kindergarten scheduled for March 29 and April 12, respectively.
In a statement released today, Dr. Gustavo Balderas, Edmonds School District Superintendent stated he will work diligently to meet the governor’s mid-April requirement laid out in the proclamation.
“The district is working with our employee groups so we can move quickly and effectively to follow the orders set out by the governor to offer an option for in-person learning to all of our students by mid-April.
“We know our students and families have been struggling for nearly a year, as it was March 13, 2020, when we were ordered to close all schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will share more information about next steps to meet the governor’s mandate soon.”
Edmonds School Board President told the Lynnwood Times that the district will work quickly to meet the requirements of Governor Inslee’s emergency proclamation and that the district is currently in the process of bringing back grades K-2 in a hybrid model.
“I completely agree with Governor Inslee that Washington children’s mental health is in crisis, and I’m confident the Edmonds School District can rise to meet the requirements of his emergency order,” said Kilgore. “Bringing students back to school will not be a magical and immediate solution to the enduring trauma children have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, but I believe it will be an important first step.”
“Edmonds is a large district with a lot of moving parts. Nonetheless, the District will move forward to provide the best possible schooling options for all students.”
State and Local Union Responses
In response to Governor Inslee’s announcement today, the Washington Education Association (WEA), the largest representative of public-school employees in Washington state, released the following statement to the Lynnwood Times:
“WEA is dedicated to protecting the safety of our students and staff. We all agree that a safe return to school buildings for those who choose is best for our students. Most districts in Washington state are already providing in-person instruction in some form, and some have been in-person for months. Only a few districts which have yet to fully implement health and safety standards are still remote.
“The governor’s announcement assumes that districts have the ability to provide safe teaching and learning. Some districts are not yet prepared to safely welcome students back to buildings. Local unions are actively bargaining with districts to ensure the return to buildings is as safe as possible.
“Shortcutting those safety processes is not in the best interest of our students, staff, or communities.
“School districts must partner with local unions and community groups– including communities of color– to ensure safety measures and robust mental health supports are in place before returning to buildings and for families that opt for remote learning.”
Dana M. Wiebe, President of the Mukilteo Education Association, in a statement to the Lynnwood Times shared that every district has unique challenges and that a blanket approach to reopening may pose risks.
“MEA has always advocated for in-person learning that is safe for staff and students, and we have worked hard to achieve that through collaborative bargaining with the District.
“Both MSD and MEA will need some time to review the regulations and implications around this executive order, including how it pertains to our current Memorandum of Agreement, as well as the difficult task of maintaining a strong secondary program now that there are some rigid constraints that have been placed upon us.
“Ironically, part of the reason that it has been difficult for us to open schools faster is the state’s ever changing guidance. This signifies yet another change we must interpret and implement.
“We will be working all weekend to figure this out, unfortunately we have more questions than answers at this point as we don’t know how these regulations work as of this communication to you, they have not released the executive order or any detailed guidelines.
“We have to go back through our plans and work to make sure they are compliant. We hope we will not have to implement yet another change for the students that are already in-person.
“Every district is different; just because something works well in Puyallup, or Yakima, doesn’t mean it will work in Mukilteo.”