No 5-day school week for Tacoma students, district offers options

TACOMA, Wash. — Forget the traditional school model this fall.

Five straight days in the classroom is not in the cards for Tacoma Public Schools.

“With the social distancing requirements of having 6 feet between students in a classroom, we just don’t have the physical space to bring them all back,” said Dan Voelpel, Tacoma Public Schools executive director communications.

How students attend class for the 2020-2021 school year will be up to the family.

“I think it’s definitely helpful for us to have that option for students to continue their education, which is very important to them,” Joseph Lawyer said.

Students can continue virtual learning, which is similar to how they ended the school year after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered schools to close March 13.

There is also an option for kids who want to get back to class.

“We’ve heard from many parents who say their kids are really missing that in-class experience, and we get that. There’s nothing that replaces face-to-face learning,” Voelpel said.

Option two is a hybrid model that combines classroom learning with distance learning.

Elementary students would attend class two to three days a week. Middle and high school students, who don't require as much hands-on learning, would be in class one to two days a week.

On distance learning days, students would do school work at home and turn it in when they return to class.

Face coverings will be required for everyone at school. The district is asking parents to practice long-term mask-wearing with their kids this summer.

In the fall, class sizes will be smaller and everyone will sit at least 6 feet apart.

Teaching 30,000 students this way is uncharted territory. Tacoma Public Schools has until Sept. 9 to sort it out.

“It’s a tremendous challenge for us, but we realize it’s also a tremendous challenge for our families. There is still no support system set up for families out there that have to keep their kids home two or three days a week,” Voelpel said.

The district will send a survey to families next week to get an idea of how many students will take part in the hybrid learning model and how many students will take part in virtual learning.