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News >  Education

Spokane Public Schools expected to bring more students back soon

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 5, 2021

First-grader Kobie Bolek participates in distance learning while at the Family Promise Shelter on the morning of Sept. 17, 2020.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)
First-grader Kobie Bolek participates in distance learning while at the Family Promise Shelter on the morning of Sept. 17, 2020. (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)

Spokane Public Schools is poised to bring more students back to buildings, Superintendent Adam Swinyard said Tuesday.

Details, including timelines and affected grade levels, will be finalized during a special board meeting Wednesday night. The Zoom meeting begins at 6 p.m. Members of the public may listen in but are not allowed to comment.

“The district is going to discuss phasing additional students back, which will include some definite timelines and a focus on elementary students,” Swinyard said.

However, Swinyard said the moves are “predicated on the guidance and support of the Spokane Regional Health District.”

COVID-19 rates in Spokane County are still at near-record levels. As of Monday, the two-week rate per 100,000 residents was 677 – far higher than at the beginning of the school year, when Spokane and Central Valley started with distance learning only.

Since then, the county’s two largest districts have moved slowly toward bringing their youngest learners back to buildings.

Currently, Spokane has returned kindergartners and first- and second-graders.

However, the pressure to pick up the pace increased on Dec. 16, when Gov. Jay Inslee offered drastically relaxed guidance for bringing students back to buildings.

Backed by data that shows little correlation between learning models and in-school infection rates, Inslee and state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal have challenged schools to push the pace on returning students to the classroom.

“Get to the work of it, follow the safety protocols and take note we are in the business of serving young people,” Reykdal said.

Five days later, Central Valley announced a plan to bring fourth-graders back on Jan. 14. Pending health district approval, sixth-graders would return the same day, with fifth-graders coming back a week later.

Meanwhile, Swinyard promised to spend the holidays crafting a plan for returning third- through fifth-graders to buildings in the near future.

“We’re eager to bring kids back,” Swinyard said after Inslee’s announcement. “We’re going to bring kids back as soon as possible, with the guidance of state and regional health officials.”

That guidance was reinforced by Interim Spokane Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez, who announced his support for phasing third-, fourth- and fifth- grade students back to the classroom starting in mid-January.

However, Velazquez was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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