While Washington state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal’s crystal ball is no better than anybody else’s, his prediction that face-to-face learning will take place in the fall feels as if it will occur.
That’s because it needs to happen and Reykdal clearly understands that a great deal of heavy lifting (metaphorically speaking) by thousands of people is essential for a return to in-person learning in schools across the state.
Reopening schools needs to be done in a safe manner. That is top priority. But continuing distance learning, either via take-home packet or through the internet, is shortchanging students.
To be clear, the Walla Walla and College Place school districts have done a top-notch job, seemingly better than many districts throughout the state based on news accounts. More local families seem to engaged with teachers than is being seen in other areas.
That’s because local educators began planning as soon the coronavirus threatened to close school buildings. And the plans developed were solid.
Still, distance learning — particularly for younger students — isn’t as good as face-to-face learning. Social interaction is essential.
Reykdal, who has shown over and over that he puts the education of students first, understands the importance of getting kids back in the classroom, even if many accommodations have to be made to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Last week Reykdal, when announcing his plan to reopen, released a 55-page document that lays out what instruction could look like come fall. The Seattle Times reported that the document is the result of work by more than 120 educators, parents, students and community organizations working to hash out details on how to best resume school.
For example, desks will be spaced 6 feet apart and schools are expected to screen students and staff for coronavirus symptoms before they enter school buildings, according to the Times.
“Everyone’s going to need to wear face coverings,” Reykdal said.
This documents, however, will not be the final blueprint on how schools reopen.
Much will likely change in the next two months. In addition, local school boards — as they should — set policy for their districts, so each district could have added rules.
Still, the state’s school chief is focused on making in-person learning happen in a safe manner, which is the first of many steps necessary for school buildings to open in the fall.