WWPS district office

Walla Walla Public Schools is taking the next step to potentially reopening in September by asking families what part of the day they would like their students to attend school.

Surveys sent out Wednesday by the district are the next step to reopening for in-person instruction Sept. 8, provided schools are allowed to do so.

The surveys must be completed by Sunday.

“This recently-released parent questionnaire represents our ongoing commitment to engage parents and stakeholders in our safely reopening planning process,” Superintendent Wade Smith said. “The survey provides families the opportunity to request the a.m. or p.m. session, as well as allow families to request a fully online option under Walla Walla Online for their students next year. Additionally, it seeks input regarding parent perception related to what reopening phase they feel Walla Walla should be in before they would feel comfortable sending their child to school.”

Tentative sessions for morning classes would run 8-11 a.m. Afternoon sessions would be noon-3 p.m.

Earlier this month, Smith announced the district was zeroing in on a split schedule for students as a way to meet distancing guidelines.

Under the plan, half of the district’s students would attend in-person instruction in the mornings and participate in distance learning in the afternoons if in-school instruction is allowed. The other half would do the opposite.

Smith formally presented the plan to the school board at its meeting Tuesday evening.

“There are two legs to our approach,” Smith said at the meeting. “Our model, as we approach the fall, will be an in-person, a.m./p.m. model with a distance learning contingency.”

He referred to the online distance learning contingency as “Distance Learning 2.0.” It is not the same as the district’s new online school, Walla Walla Online.

“Distance Learning 2.0 is a temporary learning contingency we would implement only if we can’t open up safely with face-to-face instruction under the a.m./p.m. model on Sept. 8,” Smith said. “If necessary to begin school under DL 2.0, we would transition to a.m./p.m. in-person instruction as soon as it is deemed safe, whether that be two weeks, two months, etc., into school.”

Walla Walla Online, in contrast, is not designed to be temporary.

“Walla Walla Online is a fully online option for students and families who require an alternative learning setting for health and safety reasons due to COVID-19, or who may experience better academic success in a distance learning model,” Smith said. “The program will be offered next year, and in perpetuity, for a 2020-21 and/or long-term learning option for valley families.”

Smith said Distance Learning 2.0 will go a lot smoother than distance learning that took place over the spring because the district will be ready for it this time.

Smith said guidelines from the state will be stricter than they were during the spring.

“The (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) told us you will be expected to provided a robust educational opportunity for all students that meets the daily and yearly instructional hour requirements,” Smith said. “Meaning, whatever we come up with, whether it’s our a.m./p.m. schedule, the Distance Learning 2.0 or Walla Walla Online, there will be 180 days of instruction and that will include five and a half hours or more of daily instruction and work for every single student across our district.”

A decision on proceeding is expected by mid-August. If at that time school is not deemed safe to reopen, the district will start with a distance learning program and transition to in-person instruction as soon as it is safe, the announcement said.

Coronavirus Coverage

Because of the health and safety concerns, the Union-Bulletin is allowing unlimited access to our stories and resources about the novel coronavirus. However, if you’re able to subscribe, please support our journalism. Click here to start your digital or print subscription


Jeremy Burnham can be reached at jeremyburnham@wwub.com or 509-551-8896.


Jeremy Burnham covers education and Columbia County for the Union-Bulletin. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University, where he studied journalism, and is an Eastern Eagle fanatic.