Changes could be coming to how schools teach during closures

Now new directives are coming from the state about what kind of help school districts should provide.

Kids across the state have now been stuck at home for weeks while many parents struggle to teach their students. Gov. Jay Inslee closed schools across the state March 17 for at least six weeks to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Now, new directives are coming from the state about what kind of help school districts should be providing to parents.

The new mandate, which starts Monday, will require school districts to have some type of remote learning plan in place, whether that’s making educational material available, teaching online or something else.

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Seattle Public Schools started providing packets with a schedule, homework and exercise routines, among other ideas. The packets are available for parents to get hard copies at the district’s 26 meal pickup points and are also available online. There are also videos of teachers giving full lessons online.

“I’m really excited for this,” said Stefanie Kahler, a mom of two in Seattle. “These are going to be amazing because my children do better if someone else is telling them what to do rather than their mother,” she said, laughing.

The educational resources SPS has available mean the school district is already in compliance with the new mandate, but the changing guidance also means SPS can change what kind of education it’s providing for students.

When SPS shut down, the district said it would not be doing online learning because of the state’s guidance on equity.

“The state superintendent actually urges all school districts to take this stance if they cannot guarantee online access for everyone,” said Denise Juneau at the time, March 12.

But now the state is issuing new guidelines to make sure education can continue.

The state superintendent, Chris Reykdal, clarified the changes in a Zoom meeting for media oThursday afternoon.

Reykdal said the state heard from the Department of Education on the issue of equity and online learning.

“Now there’s an expectation for learning,” Reykdal said. “The Department of Education has told us now, get after some learning.”

“Do not let the risk of not serving them now be a reason why you don’t do anything,” Reykdal said.

He said there is still an obligation to have equitable services but the new directive is to not let those concerns from prevent school districts from providing what education they can.

“You need to start delivering learning opportunities for families. Now we have some flexibility from the feds, now that families understand how long this might be,” Reykdal said.

Though SPS is already in compliance, the new guidance means Seattle schools can offer more online learning based on the resources they have.

“The situation keeps evolving,” said Tim Robinson, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools.

The district wants parents to look out for changes that will be coming Monday, though details are still being worked out.

“It can be online and a combination of many other things, and that’s what we’re defining now,” Robinson said .

Parents say they know school districts are doing their best during the unprecedented shutdown.

“I appreciate what SPS is doing. I think they’re trying really hard,” Kahler said.

SPS has also been focused on making sure students who rely on school for food have access to meals.

This week, it also launched child care for kids of first responders.

As for graduating seniors, the state superintendent also offered new guidance. Reykdal said the state is giving districts local authority to decide what requirements need to be lifted in order to make sure seniors can graduate on time.

School closures are supposed to end April 24, but Reykdal said it’s the state asking districts to prepare for all scenarios – including if schools end up being closed for the rest of the year.