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Washington schools superintendent uses foul language to describe pandemic's impact on education

Lawmakers said that Superintendent Chris Reykdal only expressed the frustration that many parents are feeling.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — During a legislative hearing last month State Superintendent Chris Reykdal described the state of schools during the coronavirus pandemic as “s-----.” 

Reykdal said that while school officials thought in March that the technology gap would be the major hurdle for learning remotely, for many students the biggest challenge has been the remote learning model itself.

“I’ve got a son failing two classes. He’s never failed in his life. He's taken AP classes all three years. He’s struggling like hell right now. This is a s----- system," he said. 

"This instructional model does not work for a lot of kids." 

While Reykdal was critical of remote learning, he did not call for a widespread return to the classroom. He noted that if the state called for students to return to in-person learning, the number of COVID-19 patients might be twice the current amount.

He said that while remote learning has kept students, teachers and families safe from COVID outbreaks at schools, "it is a trade-off."

Reykdal also said the state has been keeping track of youth mental health, including suicides, as a stark reality of the toll and stress of remote learning on students.

Reykdal made the comments during a meeting of the House Education Committee recorded by TVW. Reykdal’s comment came around the 53-minute mark.

Committee Chair Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, said she was not offended by the word. 

“I guess I was surprised. And yet at the same time, I recognize, and I feel that same way. And it is it is a frustration, frankly, and an anger that we all share,” Tomiko Santos said.

However, she did not agree with another point Reykdal made. 

Reykdal told legislators his office should have more authority. 

The state’s superintendent acts in a supervisory role, offering advice to the governor and making legislative requests of lawmakers. 

Reykdal argued he’d be able to help school districts more quickly if he had the ability to disperse budget funding in emergencies without having to rely on legislative approval. 

"This is not just a problem with COVID, this is a problem of 15% of our kids who never graduate because the system that moves darn too slow for their needs,” Reykdal said.