Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee issued new statewide recommendations Wednesday that encourages Washington schools to begin a phased return to in-person instruction that should begin with younger students.

Citing new data that indicates COVID-19 doesn’t spread as prominently among young children, Inslee said he is confident that following proper safety measures will control virus spread in schools. He emphasized the wearing masks at all times, maintaining six feet of physical distance whenever possible, improved ventilation, and increased cleaning.

“Now that we have a better understanding of how the disease spreads and have developed health and safety protocols specific to schools, we are in a better position, we have more confidence when it comes to phased-in, in-person learning,” he said.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said he doesn’t believe remote learning has been successful “for a lot of kids.” Reykdal said his ability to re-open schools is limited. Inslee echoed that sentiment.

Inslee said that while he does have the ability to close schools for emergencies, he does “not have the statutory authority to make them reopen.”

He is, however, hoping that these new recommendations will give school districts the confidence to begin in-class instruction.

Inslee’s new reopening guidelines include the following:

  • Districts in counties where COVID cases are less than 50 residents per 100,000 people: In-person learning should be made available to all students.
  • Districts in counties where COVID cases are between 50 and 350 residents per 100,000 people: Districts are encouraged to phase in in-person learning, starting with elementary and middle school students.
  • Districts in counties where COVID cases are greater than 350 per 100,000 people: Districts are encouraged to bring elementary students “and those with the highest needs” back into classrooms in small groups of 15 or fewer.

Clark County currently has 450 cases per 100,000.

“Our teachers and school administrators have done a phenomenal job navigating unprecedented challenges,” Inslee said. “This updated guidance provides a framework and will help schools plan and prepare so that when the metrics reach the appropriate level, they’re able to resume in-person instruction quickly.”

Inslee advises against high schools returning to classrooms until “areas see a plateau and decrease in cases.”


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