SEATTLE — It will be “almost impossible” for all Washington students to return to in-person classes in the fall, according to Washington Superintendent Chris Reykdal.
The sticking point? Reykdal said maintaining 6 feet of distance between students, teachers, and staff would be the biggest challenge considering normal class sizes.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity in a lot of places, but it just simply can’t happen everywhere for all students,” Reykdal said in a video the state shared Saturday.
All public and private K-12 schools have been closed since March 17 when the coronavirus pandemic forced districts to shift to remote learning. On June 11, the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) released guidance for fall learning, including requirements that students and staff wear masks and social distance if in-person classes resume.
Over the summer, districts will rearrange classrooms and common spaces and develop new protocols to maintain distance. However, Reykdal said many districts will need to have some form of remote or blended learning to accommodate families and state mandates.
Reykdal said OSPI understands there may be short periods of time where students and teachers come within 6 feet of one another, such as if a student gets up to sharpen a pencil or a teacher moves around the classroom. However, other preventative measures like frequent handwashing, cleaning, and masks make these instances “tolerable.”
The OSPI also listened to concerns about the use of school buses. Reykdal said districts must have loading protocols in place to increase space between students, windows should be kept open when possible and students and staff must wear masks.
Parents were also encouraged to pick up and drop off their kids or consider walking or biking to avoid overcrowding buses.
“We’re trying to do everything we can for the safety and health and create the opportunity, but it’s going to look really different next year, and it’s going to be different from one community to another,” Reykdal said.