SEATTLE — Students in Washington who have not already begun in-person learning will get the chance to do so beginning Monday.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency proclamation in March requiring all public K-12 schools to provide an in-person learning option for all students by April 19. The proclamation requires schools to offer an in-person instruction option that equates to at least 30% instructional time.
Inslee cited mental health concerns as one of the reasons for bringing students back.
"The youth mental health crisis has become significantly worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is time to provide an in-person learning option to help students that need it," said Inslee in a statement.
Holland Hornaday will finally walk the halls at Edmonds Woodway High School on Monday. She has been a freshman since the fall but was never able to actually walk on campus.
“I’m trying to remind myself it's not going to be like it normally is. We're not going to be able to hug everyone,” she said. “It’s going to be different, but I'm glad we get to go at all, and it's not just from our room."
Hornaday's friend Kira Sutcliffe said her grades didn't suffer online, but sometimes it was difficult to interact with the teachers, and especially with friends.
“It was hard because the teachers weren't as accessible, and if you had a question, you had to send an email, and it was two to three days to get a response, so that was a little rough,” she said.
Seattle Public Schools, the largest public school district in Washington, will welcome students in sixth through 12th grades back to the classroom on Monday. Students will be required to wear face masks and complete a daily health screening before class, according to the district.
Ballard High School teacher India Carlson said teaching remotely has been tough.
“Basically, I've had to reinvent my curriculum every week since last year,” Carlson said.
Carlson teaches Horticulture and Botany and said she has concerns and senses the stress from her students, so she is focused on helping them.
“I've been telling them over and over you're coming to my room, in-person school. We're going to be doing stuff that's fun,” she said.
School districts across the state have been phasing in students over the last several weeks, starting with the youngest students and those in special education.
Data from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) shows 54% of students in all grades are already receiving weekly in-person instruction as of the week of March 29, the most recent data available.
The data also shows 181 districts in the state are offering a partial in-person learning option for all students. Another 77 districts are offering traditional in-person learning, and 25 are phasing in students.
All school districts must follow physical distancing requirements in classes, masking and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols to help limit the spread of COVID-19.