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Spokane Public Schools creates task force to consider challenges to reopening schools in the fall

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Public Schools is taking its first steps toward envisioning what education will look like this fall – no matter where it takes place.

The district is assembling a task force that will address several major challenges, including curriculum, assessments, coordination of online platforms, special education and extracurricular activities, district staff told the Spokane School Board on Wednesday night.

That work will happen concurrently at the state level, but Spokane Superintendent Shelley Redinger said the district doesn’t want to get ahead of the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“We want to do it in parallel,” said Redinger, who also noted that guidance from state and local health officials “will determine a lot” of how the district proceeds.

For example, Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson pointed out that directives on social distancing may affect how in-school lessons are delivered.

District officials acknowledged that they’re dealing with many uncertainties but need to move forward and plan for instruction online, in-person or a combination of both.

Associate Superintendent Adam Swinyard laid out some broad plans for the fall.

“We’re still in the process of developing the composition and the structure (of the committees),” he said. Topics will include an elementary school assessment plan and a closer look at coordinating various online learning platforms.

The district has almost finalized plans for closing and cleaning its buildings and allowing students to retrieve belongs left behind when schools closed on March 16.

“We are starting putting together a structure for a restart,” Anderson said. “But the in meantime, we are working with administrators for closing schools.

Anderson said families of elementary school students will be able to pick up belongings from June 15 to June 19.

Middle school and high school students – “a few at a time,” Anderson said – will be allowed to clean out lockers from June 5 through June 19.

During that time, Anderson said, teachers will prepare their classrooms for deep cleaning.