Gov. Jay Inslee visited Elk Ridge Elementary in Buckley as part of his push to get students back in school and to show teachers and parents that it can be made safe.
“Academic achievement, better mental health, better confidence for parents. This is a win-win situation for everyone,” the governor said.
Students wear masks, have their temperatures taken and parents consent to their children being tested for COVID-19.
White River School District Operations Manager Jer Argo said, “We have positive cases, but we believe with all of those mitigating things we’re doing from masking, to social distancing, to mask-wearing, to health attestation, to hand hygiene that they are not going to spread on our campus.”
Social distancing is easier because the White River District has just roughly 4,000 students, and 20% have decided to stay at home.
“When you take 20% that stay at distance learning, and then you take the 80%, and you split them between morning and afternoon, how small those class sizes actually are, and you just feel safe,” said high school teacher Dameon Marlow.
A counselor told Inslee of a student who contemplated suicide because of the isolation away from school.
“And what it did to me was I felt like we really have no idea what’s happened to our kids in the last 10 months,” said Greg Benjamin.
Still, a new report from the Technology Alliance urges Washington to get ready now in case this pandemic or the next calamity requires more distance learning.
It calls for better internet access for the 200,000 students who can’t get online reliably. It also calls for a laptop for every child and a better “distance learning” curriculum for educators.
Sharonne Navas, executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition said, “It is an issue of urban, suburban and rural Washington. So the state needs to invest more in its infrastructure.”
As of this morning, there were five confirmed cases of COVID-19 spread through the White River School District.
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