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Thursday, August 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion: School leaders are committed to safety

We miss your children.

Though we understood why school buildings had to close last spring in the midst of a pandemic that remains a challenge to public health, we genuinely missed having our students in school. Our respective districts sought to do our collective best at a distance, yet it was not the same as the togetherness we value.

As COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on our communities and much of what we treasure as “normal life,” each of us, along with our respective school boards and fellow educators, continue the complex work of planning for the new school year.

Planning efforts – in each of our respective districts, and in collaboration between our school districts – are focused on reopening our schools in the safest and most effective way possible for our students and our staff. Ideally, we want to be together in our schools.

Our top priority is the health and well-being of our students and staff. School reopening plans will follow the public health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Washington State Department of Health and the Spokane Regional Health District. We’ll work to mesh key health requirements with our sincere desire to have our students in school – safe and learning – in as normal a fashion as possible. We are eager to provide in-person instruction when it is determined safe for staff and students; however, we recognize that guidance from health officials may not allow us to take that step in the fall.

As parents ourselves, we know the benefit of being together in the learning and teaching process. We understand and value the importance of interaction and connection – between students and teachers/staff, and between students themselves.

So, as we strive toward a return to school, we acknowledge that perspectives vary about the best path forward. We value input from, and partnership with, everyone with a stake – our students and families, our fellow educators, and our communities in whole. We continue to learn through the ongoing journey of the coronavirus and its impacts, that extending patience and grace toward and with one another is as important as it has ever been. It is not easy for anyone to define what is best, what is safest, what is most effective.

Yet, we are committed to doing our very best, in the safest and most effective ways possible. And we value the opportunity to work together, to listen to one another, and to compromise and balance what any of us most want with what is feasible in the moment. Individually, and collectively, we care about the academic, social and emotional well-being of our students, and about their safety and the safety of everyone – public health is rightfully an overarching priority.

In the inexact science of learning and teaching through an ongoing pandemic, we will follow expertise and protocols that will render our schools as safe as possible; we appreciate that everyone will do his or her part to minimize continuing spread of the virus; and we are grateful to serve wonderful students, supportive families and larger communities, and to work with fellow educators who share our desire to find the best way forward.

The Superintendents of School Districts in Spokane County:

Ben Small, Central Valley; Rob Roettger Cheney; Travis Hanson, Deer Park; Kelly Shea, East Valley; Randy Russell, Freeman; Jeff Baerwald, Great Northern; Brett Baum, Liberty; Shawn Woodward, Mead; Tim Ames, Medical Lake; Dave Smith, Newport; Brian Talbott, Nine Mile Falls; Eric Sobotta, Reardan-Edwall; Ken Russell, Riverside; Adam Swinyard, Spokane; and Kyle Rydell, West Valley.

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