Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing forward with efforts to encourage the state’s public school districts to return to in-person learning.
Tuesday, Inslee announced expanded funding and support for COVID-19 testing, one of the few levers the state can control in urging officials across the state and in its biggest city to resume in-class instruction. 48 new school districts signed up for the voluntary program, the governor said.
The program currently serves 13 districts piloting the COVID-19 testing protocols. That program will now expand across the state. In King County, districts in Renton and Vashon Island will be part of the testing effort. Early results show that cases of transmission in schools have been rare.
The state’s push on reopening comes under the latest CDC’s recommendations that K-12 schools “should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely.”
Seattle Public Schools, the district serving the state’s largest population, has not yet announced a return to classroom plan as its thousands of students have been served by months of remote learning. Preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders will return to the classroom starting March 1st, officials have been telling families and guardians. But outgoing Superintendent Denise Juneau has tapped the brakes a bit and no official announcement has yet been made. CHS reported on SPS’s status as Capitol Hill’s private schools have already begun returning to the classroom.
The Washington Education Association union has called for prioritization of vaccination for teachers if the state’s public schools are to return to in-person learning at a wide scale. The state’s phased schedule for vaccination priority has yet moved beyond its first segments emphasizing medical workers, at-risk populations including those 65 and older, and first responders.
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