Washington, Idaho Outline Different Approaches For Schools; Moscow Goes Hybrid, Delays Start

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced new guidance for school district on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. CREDIT: TVW
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced new guidance for school district on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. CREDIT: TVW

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Washington Schools Reopening Guidance

-Washington Coronavirus Cases By County

Idaho Schools Reopening Guidance

Idaho Coronavirus Information Page

BY SALLY HO / AP & NWPB STAFF

Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday that schools in the majority of Washington’s counties should strongly consider online-only learning for students this fall due to COVID-19 and canceling or postponing sports and all other in-person extracurricular activities.

Inslee made the announcement with the superintendent of public instruction for Washington and the state’s health officer.

“This pandemic will continue to grow unless something changes,” Inslee said, adding if every school district brought all students back “I believe we would see a dangerous increase of COVID activity.”

Authorities say the virus is still spreading too extensively in the state, which saw the nation’s first confirmed virus case in late January. Since then Washington has seen more than 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 deaths.

Washington officials broke down their school guidelines – which are recommendations, not requirements – into categories for counties deemed high risk, moderate risk and low risk.

For high-risk counties, Washington state recommends distance learning and no in-person activities. Limited in-person instruction could be considered for high-need students.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announces the closing of all K-12 schools in three Washington counties on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The closure was extended statewide on Friday for at least six weeks. CREDIT: Rachel La Corte/AP

File photo. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announces the closing of all K-12 schools in three Washington counties on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The closure was later extended statewide for the rest of the regular academic year as the state was in the early stages of responding to the coronavirus pandemic. CREDIT: Rachel La Corte/AP

Twenty-five of the state’s 39 counties are considered high-risk, meaning there are more than 75 cases per 100,000 people, including all three counties in the Seattle metro area. Many schools in the Puget Sound region have already announced plans to start the year with an online-only model.

For moderate-risk counties (25 to 75 cases per 100,000) Inslee and others say distance learning should be considered for middle and high school students. In-person learning could be an option for elementary students and those with special needs. Extracurricular activities should also be cancelled. Nine counties are currently listed as moderate risk.

In the five, smaller low-risk counties where there are fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 officials recommend a hybrid distance/in-person schedule for older students and in-person learning for elementary school students.

Inslee also announced $8.8 million in federal funding to help the state pay for internet plans and technology needs for low-income families. Critics of online learning say not enough consideration has been given to students who lack reliable internet or computers.

Idaho Governor Urges School Reopening; Moscow Picks Up Hybrid Model  

– By Scott Leadingham / NWPB

In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little is encouraging schools to reopen in the fall. Idaho Education News reported this week that Little said in a telephone town hall on Tuesday that he was “doing everything I can to convince the trustees about how important it is to have kids in school.”

Idaho Education News reported Tuesday:

“Throughout the summer, Little has said one of his top priorities has been to reopen schools. He and the State Board of Education have encouraged schools to reopen in person. But the virus continues to spread.

“On Monday, Central District Health placed the Boise, Kuna and West Ada school districts into the highest risk category for coronavirus transmission this week. The classification comes alongside nonbinding state guidance that calls for schools in Category 3 to be closed and deliver instruction remotely.”

As other areas of the state are still in question and figuring out plans for the upcoming term, students in the Moscow School District have a better view of how their year will look. The Moscow School District board of trustees and administrators met Tuesday evening to approve plans that have been in the works for a few weeks, as district officials sought feedback from parents and guardians.

The board approved three separate resolutions for the upcoming term.

First, instruction will be a hybrid of in-person and online learning. Within that, students will be put into two groups, A and B. The A’s will attend in-person classes Monday and Tuesday. B’s will attend Thursday and Friday. And Wednesday will be a virtual day for everyone.

The second resolution allowed students and their families to opt for going completely virtual if they prefer.

Regarding when the school year will begin, the board approved pushing back the start of the school year until September 14, in what they preferred to call a “soft opening” rather than a delay.

The board and district administrators said in pegging the start date to mid-September, they could monitor how the coronavirus situation changes in the city after University of Idaho students return soon for the fall semester. They could still move to alter the start of the term based on the evolving nature of the pandemic.

Additional reporting from NWPB staff. 

Copyright 2020 Associated Press

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