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Sunday, September 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

SPS board to address back to school, other issues

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 18, 2020

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street. (JESSE TINSLEY)

The Spokane Public Schools board will hold a special meeting Wednesday night to cover a wide range of issues, including plans for beginning in-person learning once COVID-19 infection rates decline to acceptable levels.

On Tuesday, the 14-day rolling average was 167 positive cases per 100,000 residents – a significant drop from earlier this month but still well above the 75-per-100,000 threshold recommended by the Spokane Regional Health District for school districts to consider reopening.

As numbers decline, interest is building in how the district plans to move students back to their home schools.

Most discussions around the country have centered on prioritizing special education students and other at-risk groups, then phasing in the rest of the students by age, youngest first.

The district also could borrow from other districts and adopt a rotating schedule .

At the same time, it’s generally agreed that distance learning has disproportionately harmed students of color and the economically disadvantaged.

“I think that’s an issue that’s very clear and is at the center of a lot of our work right now,” said Jerrall Haynes, echoing the no-win situation faced by districts across the nation.

“We know that they’re hurt by staying at home,” Haynes said. “But the data also shows that (by returning to classes) they are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and bringing it back to their families.”

“There are bad outcomes to either solution, and that’s one purpose of the meeting,” Haynes said.

The board also will discuss equity policies, a replacement levy, future school boundaries and the polarizing issue of school discipline in its Draft Priority Goals.

No action will be taken and no public comment will be taken during the virtual meeting, which will begin at 5 p.m. However, the community may listen in.

Haynes couldn’t offer any details on Tuesday, but said district staff will “offer several ideas” on how that might happen.

The other purpose of the meeting is to advance discussion of racial equity issues raised by the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year.

Topics on Wednesday’s agenda include training for staff focused on anti-racism and cultural responsiveness; advancement of a work group on student-centered learning; social-emotional learning; and work-force diversity.

The board also will discuss a proposal to eliminate the ability of school resource officers to arrest students.

The board hopes to develop a new safety model by January.

“It’s a very polarizing issue,” Haynes said.

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