Washington school districts’ response to COVID-19 guided by health officials

An update to Wash. school district planning for the 2020-21 school year

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OPSI), released guidance for Washington school districts which aims to provide expectations and viable school models for the return to K-12 education this fall.

A few of the key guiding principles released by OPSI on May 15 detail keeping students at the center of attention to build relationships and help them feel safe, along with designing new learning systems for equity and access regarding learning content.

“There will not be a one-size-fits-all model for school in Washington state next year,” wrote Education Sector Liaison, Benjamin King of the COVID-19 Response

Joint Information Center. “In partnership with their community, local school districts will choose and adapt a school model and guidance that works best for their school community, and how severe the COVID-19 outbreak is in their area.”

Managing and monitoring student learning and using strategies to provide feedback or assess student learning are also taken into account when developing the key guidance elements of the new school year. The safety and reassurance of student value is a top priority for schools within Washington districts during the ongoing pandemic, according to OPSI.

Another priority is to make instructional adjustments and guide instruction based on effectiveness. The last principle relates to adhering to family engagement and the necessity of communication between educators and student learners.

An overview of state and district planning mentioned some of the recommendations for potential models and provided examples for considerations within schools and the public health issue, according to OPSI. Some of these concerns include how schools will effectively conduct health screenings and grading system accommodations for students and staff, along with how staff should recognize the unique circumstances families might face.

Additionally, a workgroup was formed in May 2020 consisting of more than 100 education officials, educators, parents, students, community members and organizations. The information from this group is expected to be released by OPSI on June 12, detailing what those models for safely reopening might look like for districts.

In regard to mental health, a PDF information guide on behavioral impacts created by the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Seattle Children’s Hospital and released on June 2. This guide detailed what to expect for the population of students due to the impacts of the stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic and how these issues may affect the overall academic performance of students.

A number of the examples under consideration for reopening Washington K-12 schools included rotating or split schedules to meet social distancing demands, such as by grade, classroom or content focus. Rotating schedules with distance learning in organized systems for off-site content delivery are also an option.

Gradually implemented distance learning may lead to the resumption of a number of school facilities for students, while others either remain closed until later dates or meet community requirements. In this model, students who aren’t physically attending school buildings will participate in learning at a distance.

According to OPSI, traditional on-campus face to face school isn’t currently a viable option for the 2020-21 school year unless necessary changes to community transmission or a vaccine for COVID-19 take place.

In the meantime, Washington school districts are able to further assess their individual circumstances for safely and realistically resuming on-site instruction. In partnership with OPSI and the Washington State Department of Health, districts are able to choose guidance models that fit their possible circumstances.


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Elissa Blankenship

Washington school districts’ response to COVID-19 guided by health officials

by Elissa Blankenship time to read: 2 min