Summitted by Washington State Governor
On Friday, nearly one year to the day since the governor and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal closed school buildings statewide in response to the pandemic, the governor announced he will sign an emergency proclamation to ensure all school districts offer some in-person learning options to students by April. The proclamation comes in response to mounting evidence of a mental health crisis among young people spawned by the pandemic.
“We have asked enough of our students and families,” Inslee said during a press conference Friday. “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.”
This emergency proclamation will prohibit any K-12 school from declining to offer opportunities in both remote instruction and on-campus, in-person instruction. In many schools, they will operate in a hybrid learning model where students are divided into groups and receive partial in-person instruction and partial remote instruction, to accommodate the health and safety requirements.
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, 2021, 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. All school districts must continue to work 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.
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 proclamation acknowledges that remote instruction is great for some students and they will have the option to continue all-remote learning.
Returning to school does not resolve all student mental health issues – it is part of the solution and will help some students. This 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 our children and youth over the next 12 months.