WSPTA received this outline of the March 12 announcement to require schools to offer an in-person learning option from Maddy Thompson, the senior policy advisor to the Governor’s office:
Today the Governor announced that he is issuing an Emergency Proclamation early next week that prohibits all school districts from failing to offer all K-12 students the opportunity to engage in both remote/on-line instruction and on-campus/in-person instruction.
- The Emergency Proclamation is based on a children’s mental health emergency: While WA has had high rates of youth mental and behavioral health problems in the past, there is evidence that lack of connection to peers, mentors and educators during the pandemic have led to feelings of disconnection and isolation and unprecedented increases in mental and behavioral health issues. Hospitals and pediatricians have provided data that show these problems have significantly worsened this school year.
- The Emergency Proclamation requires districts to offer an in-person option as well as a remote option in all grades by April 19.
Please watch the full press conference for additional details, with remarks from: Superintendent Reykdal; Dr. Nwando Anyaoku, (director of pediatrics and chief health equity officer, Swedish, Seattle); Dr. Peter Asante (chair of pediatrics, Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital, Yakima); and Lacy Fehrenbach (deputy secretary for COVID response, Department of Health (Q&A.))
- Districts are required to phase-in in-person learning by the following dates:
- By April 5, all students in grades K–6 (that have not already been) must be provided with an opportunity to engage in in-person learning.
- By April 19, all students in grades K–12 (that have not already been) must be provided with an opportunity to engage in in-person learning.
- This school year, higher proportions of students are also disengaging from their learning, with large increases in absences and in the percentage of students receiving no credit for their courses.
- Schools will still be required to follow all mandatory health and safety requirements by the Department of Health and the Department of Labor & Industries.
- By April 19, at least 30% of each student’s average weekly instructional hours must be provided in-person (unless the student and their family chooses to learn fully remotely). Each student must have an opportunity to learn in-person at least two days per week. These may be partial or full days.
- All school districts must continue to work to exceed the 30% minimum in-person instructional hours, and they must reach the maximum capacity and frequency of in-person learning they can provide – following all health and safety requirements – as soon as possible
- In-person instruction must comply with DOH school health and safety requirements as well as LNI requirements for employee safety as directed by the School Employer Health and Safety Requirements.
- Resources to support students and families needing mental and behavioral supports can be found at this website: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/mental-and-emotional-well-being
- With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, schools in our state will have received $2.6 billion in federal pandemic relief. The Governor supports ongoing state and local investments in additional supports to students as these needs are likely to continue into the long-term.
- In addition, he supports additional investments in expanding behavioral health supports and the behavioral health workforce and there is much, much more work to do related to mental and behavioral health. This emergency proclamation will also direct the Department of Health and the state Health Care Authority to immediately begin work on recommendations that would detail how to support the behavioral health needs of our children and youth over the next 12 months. This will help us address and triage the full spectrum of rising pediatric behavioral health needs. The Governor acknowledged the long-term inequities and racial biases in the educational system, and expressed a need to create policies supported by investments to address these issues.
- Schools in WA have proven they can open safely with health and safety protocols in place. Vaccinations will provide an added layer of security. Thousands more educators are getting vaccinated in WA each day and have exclusive access to vaccinations through the federal pharmacies following President Biden’s direction to prioritize educators, school staff and childcare workers.
- The Governor noted that the 6ft rule for space between students in the classroom that is currently required as part of the school health and safety measures will not change in the short term, but it is being reviewed as more data and information comes in and organizations such as the AAP and WHO are recommending 3ft.
WSPTA would also like to share the following resource provided by OSPI, “Governor Inslee’s “Children & Youth Mental Health Crisis” Order: Questions & Answers.”