Gov. Jay Inslee announced March 25 that Washington schools can follow new, less restrictive Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines about students in schools.
The CDC guidelines say that schools only need to put 3 feet of distance between desks in classrooms, a reduction from the previous guideline of 6 feet.
That would mean students in schools for more in-person hours during the week.
“We are really excited that our state is moving in this direction,” Anacortes School District Superintendent Justin Irish said. “Not only are we working on a plan this year, but we will have plenty of opportunity this summer to figure out what school will look like in the fall.”
Hopefully, restrictions continue to ease, Irish said.
The 6-feet buffers are still required during meals, activities and in common areas.
According to the Anacortes School District, staff is working to implement changes as soon as possible.
Right now, the district is looking at all grade levels and is working on figuring out when changes may be put into effect, Irish said. A lot depends on staffing challenges and having enough support staff and bus drivers to be able to have more students in schools at a time.
“We are working as fast as we can,” Irish said.
Changes in the school day could mean changes in when school starts and ends to accommodate bus routes.
The district has a major challenge right now when it comes to transportation staffing. It is trying to recruit more drivers, but is encouraging families to find other ways to get students to school. They ask families who plan not to have students take the bus to let them know, according a district news release.
The district is working to hire more staff for supervision on playgrounds and in lunchrooms and is looking at student schedules and restructuring routines, such as desk placement, meals, contact tracing and sanitization.
“We know this has been a frustrating year. We will creatively solve known problems and continue to predict solutions for issues that are not yet known,” the district said in the release. “We all want our students back in school full time. We recognize that some families are organizing a peaceful protest to reopen schools.”
Posts on social media in a Facebook group called “Open ASD schools!” are asking families and community members to gather at the corner of M Avenue and 22nd Street from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday.
According to a post in the group, the demonstration is to show positive support for opening schools.
“Our kids and community deserve better,” the post reads.
Irish said the district shares the “same sense of urgency” about bringing students back.
Another group of parents is planning a “Thank you ASD” event outside each school Thursday. Each event, starting at 2 p.m., begins 15 minutes before each school releases its students for the day.
“We are hoping to give a positive send off just before Spring Break,” a post about the event reads.