'The data and science are clear': State says mental health crisis behind directive to reopen schools

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed an emergency proclamation requiring all Washington public K-12 schools to provide both remote and in-person learning next month.

Under the proclamation, schools will be expected to provide an in-person learning option that equates to at least 30% of instructional time by two key deadlines:

  • April 5: All students in kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade (depending on the school district) must be offered a hybrid option.
  • By April 19, all other K-12 students must have the same option to return part-time. 
  • April 19: All remaining K-12 students must be offered a hybrid option.

RELATED: Seattle Public Schools pushes back in-person learning for preschool, special education students

In addition, schools must offer students at least two days per week of on-campus, in-person instruction.

Under the emergency proclamation, there is still the option for families who want or need to leave their child in fully remote learning to do so. 

The move comes as the state aims to address mental health concerns among students as a result of prolonged remote education. 

"This has been a long year for our state’s students and their families. They have lived with fear and uncertainty," Inslee said during a press conference Friday. "The youth mental health crisis has become significantly worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is time to provide an in-person learning option to help students that need it."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal sent a letter to school superintendents on Friday addressing the re-opening directive. 

"The data and science are clear: With health and safety measures in place, schools can safely provide in-person learning for their students. We also know our in-person learning environment provides students with comprehensive supports that many really need right now. I support this directive and am thankful for the governor’s leadership," Reykdal said in a statement. 

Schools will adhere to social distancing and mask requirements set by the state Department of Health.

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