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Washington schools could offer 20% asynchronous learning post-pandemic if bill is approved

Sen. Manka Dhingra said giving districts the option of using a different method of instruction could result in more “creative and collaborative” teaching.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — When school campuses were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020-21 school year, students were offered online courses without live, teacher-to-student interactions.

The courses known as asynchronous could continue long after the pandemic under a law proposed in Olympia.

Senate Bill 5735 would allow school districts to offer up to 20% of instruction online, without live interaction.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Manka Dhingra, said allowing the option is not the same as remote learning.

"I want to make that clear," said Dhingra (D-Redmond).

Dhingra said giving districts the option of using a different method of instruction could result in more “creative and collaborative” teaching, which could better prepare students for working online once they get out of school.

”My grandmother went to a school with that model, with a teacher in the front lecturing. I know we can do better,” Dhingra said.

She said the idea came from students in her legislative district who liked asynchronous lessons. 

Three students from Lake Washington High School testified that the new approach worked better for them, especially with group projects.

Sagnik Sinha told Senators Wednesdays were asynchronous for him in 2021.

“The switch to essentially a four-day work week gave me more time to complete my work, gave me more time to play my clarinet and soccer - various clubs of which I was a part,” Sinha said.

Several parents testified against the idea, saying asynchronous lessons did not work for their children.

Marina Subbaiah is a mother and vice president of Washington Coalition for Kids.

"I'm actually in disbelief we're even discussing this two years into the pandemic after the suffering our children have been through,” Subbaiah said.

Republican Senator Brad Hawkins said the asynchronous lessons were not effective for his middle school students.

Dhingra said she would be open to limiting the courses to high school students.