While a significant portion of our region has been adhering to public health recommendations designed to fight the spread of COVID-19 (frequent hand washing, physical distancing and wearing a mask), the number of confirmed virus cases is sadly still growing in our communities. This means that school districts must adapt to the current pandemic landscape and come up with plans for a safe return to learning in the fall.

With the unusual and admittedly challenging end to the school year this past spring, a workgroup of education leaders across the state of Washington has been working over the summer to evaluate different distance learning models and figure out how to move forward as we face the beginning of yet another atypical school year this fall. The workgroup has prioritized serving students with as much face-to-face time with their educators and peers in schools as possible while following health and safety guidelines, and has identified three major learning models that schools may choose to implement, depending on what public health restrictions and/or recommendations are in place at the time.

Distance/remote learning

Under this model, schools will fully operate in a distance/remote learning model until it is safe to go back to in-person instruction either part or full time. Some of the steps that school districts have taken to adopt and improve this type of learning model over last year’s versions include:

  • Streamlining education apps and tools for more seamless content delivery;
  • Investing in remote learning infrastructure that support internet connections, updated devices and online-friendly curriculum for students;
  • Providing additional training for educators on best practices for remote instruction;
  • Working to deliver education with clearer expectations, accountability of instruction and assignments, and grading on a more reliable schedule.

These and other steps have been or will be taken by many districts based on feedback from families and educators, and are meant to be improvements to distance/remote learning models that were hastily incorporated when the virus first caused schools to shut down this past spring.

Hybrid of in-person/distance/remote learning

Under a hybrid model, students may attend school in person part time and complete the rest of their learning remotely. If your district moves forward with this type of learning model, you can expect that they will communicate with you directly about the specific days and times your child will attend school in-person, what practices the school is taking to keep kids safe while in school, and options for students to engage in all-remote learning, if that is what your family needs.

In-person learning

In the case that schools are able to reopen, whether partially or fully, there are a number of actions school districts will take to ensure the safety of all of their staff and students. Those actions may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Requiring masks or face coverings for all students and staff
    • Wearing a mask helps to prevent the spread of the virus by people who are infected but do not show symptoms
  • Setting classrooms up with recommended physical distancing between desks to help prevent the spread of illness
    • In some cases, fewer students could be in classrooms and in the school building during the school day to adhere to physical distancing recommendations
  • Requiring frequent hand washing for all students and staff

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation, and schools and families will need to work together to ensure kids are getting the best education they can while protecting the health and safety of students and staff. Regardless of which learning method schools operate under this fall, there are still steps that individuals and families can take to continue to combat the spread of COVID-19. Those steps, as we mentioned above, include washing hands frequently, practicing social distancing, and wearing a mask.

The better we are at limiting the spread of the virus in our communities, the sooner we can get kids back in school for face-to-face instruction, which we know is the preferred method of learning for our students.