OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal unveiled new recommendations to Washington state’s school districts on what data they should be looking at when deciding whether or not to reopen school to in-person instruction this fall.
The recommendations are not legally binding and keep control in the hands of local school boards, but Inslee urged school decision-makers to consider the guidance — along with input from local health officials — when deciding whether or not to open its doors to in-person learning.
The recommendations establish three categories that Washington’s 39 counties fall under: high-risk, which are counties with more than 75 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period; moderate-risk, which are counties with between 25 and 75 cases; and low-risk, which are counties with fewer than 25 cases.
For counties in the high-risk category, the state strongly recommends school districts only provide distance learning with no in-person instruction. For moderate-risk counties, the state recommends distance learning for middle and high schools, with possible in-person learning options for elementary schools. The state encourages low-risk counties to provide a hybrid model of instruction at middle and high schools, with full-time in-person learning in elementary schools.
For school districts in high or moderate risk counties, the state strongly recommends canceling or postponing all in-person extracurricular activities, including sports. It does not issue a recommendation for districts in low-risk counties.
Pacific County’s current rate is 97 new cases per 100,000 residents, according to data from the state Department of Health, putting it firmly in the high-risk category. Last week, the Pacific County Public Health and Human Services Department recommended to the county’s school districts to postpone any in-person instruction for at least one month to start the school year.
The Ocean Beach School District Board of Directors is meeting Aug. 10 to decide how to open the 2020-21 school year — either in a hybrid model with partial in-person instruction, or remote-only.