Washington students will not return to school this school year, but will still be learning online.
Governor Jay Inslee and Washington’s superintendent of public instruction, Chris Reykdal, announced the news on Monday.
“We cannot risk losing the gains we have made after the peak of this pandemic presumably will pass,” Inslee said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered schools, nonessential businesses and government offices throughout the state.
The closure of traditional schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year will let educators “focus their energies and amazing creative talents on the best way to provide education to their students in this challenging circumstance,” Inslee said.
Seniors in good standing should expect to receive a diploma this year, the governor added.
He urged Washington educators to “perfect as much as possible the distance-learning model and ensure seniors have the opportunity to get the credits they need to graduate.”
Education will continue in Washington, the governor said, but it “will look different than you’re used to.”
Reykdal said the comments he’s heard from students, educators and families during the statewide school closures, which were expected to lift later this month, show the “value of school and the power of learning.”
“This is a once in a 100-year pandemic that compels us to do this today,” Reykal said, adding that, the next time a crisis forces a statewide school closure, Washington will be more prepared.
“There will be something else … and this compels us to transform.”
Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell wrote to families Monday evening to inform them of the extended school closures.
“I hoped that we would be able to welcome students back to school this year. Our staff members love seeing and serving your children at school. Instead, we will be focusing all of our effort on making remote learning the best it can be,” Snell stated in his letter, adding that Camas school leaders understand the challenges presented by the governor’s decision to shutdown school for the rest of the school year.
This is what has happened so far in Camas schools to accommodate remote learning:
Educators have reached out to students to talk about learning plans and recorded lessons.
“School administrators are tracking all concerns, and we’re doing our best to address them quickly,” Snell stated. “We are currently exploring ways to do live video conferencing lessons.”
The superintendent called the remote learning plans “a work in progress” and said school administrators would continue to update families about grading, graduation and other concerns.
Devices have been given to all students in grades 3-12, and the district has placed buses with wifi hotspots on them around the community from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays to help families that may not have wifi in their homes.
Washougal educators also spent the past week reaching out to their students and figuring out what distance learning will look like in that district.
“This is new for all of us and please know that educators are working to determine how much is enough when offering assignments, instruction and feedback,” Washougal schools superintendent Mary Templeton stated in a message to families posted to the district’s website. “Your teacher and principal will continue to be your main link to the virtual classroom.”
Washougal elementary school students will begin to receive iPads next week. The district has said it will hold virtual graduation ceremonies for high school seniors, but that “a final decision related to graduation ceremonies will be planned by the high school in coordination with students in the class of 2020, staff and families.”
Camas and Washougal school districts have been able to provide meals to students who need them, with onsite pickup locations available from 9 to 11 a.m. at Liberty and Skyridge middle schools and Woodburn, Lacamas Lake, Dorothy Fox, Prune Hill and Grass Valley elementary schools in Camas; and from 10 a.m. to noon at Hamllik Park, Hathaway and Cape Horn-Skye elementary schools and at the Rockwood Terrace Apartments in Washougal.
Camas families can find more information about the school closures at camas.wednet.edu/covid-19/news-and-updates/