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News >  K-12 education

Mead School District cancels first day of classes due to smoke, Spokane schools start distance learning

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 14, 2020

Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)

Hazardous air quality has forced Mead and several other school districts to cancel classes for Monday and possibly beyond.

With school already postponed by coronavirus-related issues, Mead was scheduled to kick off the school year on Monday with a hybrid model, with elementary school students going back full-time and secondary students half-time.

But because of record-breaking poor air quality, there will be no classes of any kind.

In a statement issued Sunday afternoon, the district stated that “due to the continued hazardous air quality both outside and inside our school buildings, the Mead School District has canceled school … for all students – virtual, hybrid and in-person.”

The district expected to monitor air quality on Monday before making a decision on Tuesday’s classes.

Several other Spokane County districts with hybrid models, including East Valley, Freeman and Riverside, opted to cancel Monday in-person lessons. However, Coeur d’Alene – which like Mead has an enrollment of about 11,000 – has opted to go ahead with in-person classes as part of its hybrid model.

“We are on,” said Scott Maben, director of communications at Coeur d’Alene. However, students will be kept indoors, and recess and physical education will he held indoors.

“If parents wish to keep their kids home, those will be excused absences,” Maben said.

Post Falls and Lakeland, the other two large districts in Kootenai County, did not announce any change due to the smoky skies. Post Falls is operating on a hybrid model while Lakeland students are attending class five days per week.

Meanwhile, Spokane Public Schools will begin Monday with its new distance learning program.

However, the district said that because of poor air quality, the district will “only provide essential services for students at schools to include SPS Day Camps and Express Childcare as was provided during COVID-19 school closures.”

Curbside meal distribution at all schools will begin on Monday, as as planned. All in-person instruction has been canceled.

The Medical Lake School District will hold distance-learning only, while Deer Park had not announced a decision as of 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Central Valley, East Valley and Cheney school districts did not announce any changes to their plans to conduct classes via distance learning on Monday.

Some local universities also made changes to prevent people from spending time in the smoke.

Washington State University suspended operations on its Pullman campus for a second day. While WSU is offering nearly all classes online-only, the university announced on Twitter that all in-person events and activities planned for Tuesday are canceled.

“Online academic and other activities may continue unless otherwise notified,” the university said.

Whitworth University, which has reopened its classrooms and residence halls for the fall semester, said all in-person classes and other activities are canceled for Tuesday due to the smoke.

“Classes may move to online formats,” Whitworth spokeswoman Trisha Coder said in an email. “Students should check with their instructors Tuesday morning if they have not yet heard from them. Only essential employees are required to report to work on Tuesday. All others should work remotely.”

Gonzaga University, which also has reopened its campus for the fall, suspended Tuesday’s in-person classes and said only workers deemed essential should report to work. In an email to undergraduate students, the university said faculty members would decide whether canceled in-person classes move to online format Tuesday.

Gonzaga said its 133rd Mass of the Holy Spirit will be held as planned at 11 a.m. Tuesday, though participants will not take communion outdoors. The event will be livestreamed via Zoom. Gonzaga said its Hemmingson Center will remain open Tuesday.

“Please practice safety, avoid the outdoors whenever possible and protect your health,” the university said.

Chad Sokol contributed to this report.

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