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Spokane Public Schools superintendent 'less and less optimistic' that buildings will reopen in fall

The district released plans for scenarios based off of whether or not school buildings in Spokane are allowed to reopen in the fall.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Public Schools held a meeting on Thursday night to inform parents of the district’s plans for fall semester instruction depending on if school buildings are open.

Superintendent Adam Swinyard led the meeting, explaining what different grade levels can expect based on if school buildings are allowed to be open or not based on public health guidelines come fall. Swinyard said the district anticipates guidance from local health officials in the coming days.

Swinyard said he becoming less confident that the district will be able to reopen its buildings by the start of the school year.

“I will say that with each passing day, I am less and less optimistic that the guidance we receive we enable us to open our buildings,” Swinyard said. “We desperately want our kids back in our schools for in-person instruction, we know that’s where the most effective teaching and learning happens.”

If school is to resume in-person in the fall, teachers will be required to wear face coverings if they come in close contact with students, the district said. At other times, teachers can wear a face shield.

Anyone entering a school building will also need to go through a screening process, which requires a temperature reading below 100.4 degrees, according to Dr. Mark Anderson. Buses will also only allow two students to a seat at most.

The district said it has to have its plan submitted by August 12. Even if the district has to do distance learning, students can still graduate with their home high school.

Swinyard said meal distribution will take place in a grab-and-go manner, like when schools closed in the spring.

If a family has a positive coronavirus case, the Spokane Regional Health District will inform the district through contact tracers, the district said.

Things could also change in spring 2021, the district said.

RELATED: 'There's no good solution': Spokane parents anxiously await decision on school reopening

The district discussed the following guidelines for multiple grade levels for both scenarios:

Elementary – School buildings open

If SPS buildings are open in the fall, students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade will attend school every day, with approximately 20 students per classroom.

Students in fifth and sixth grade will attend classes on an alternating-day schedule. For days students in those two grades aren’t in the building, “activities and assignments” will be provided.

Students will be required to stay six feet apart at desks and tables inside classrooms, and breakfast and lunch will also be served in classrooms instead of cafeterias.

Specialists will be provided and curriculum will be adjusted in both “scope and sequence.”

Students will be provided with regular breaks outdoors throughout the school day.

Middle/High School – School buildings open

The district currently plans for students in middle and high school to use an alternative schedule for in-person instruction, with activities and assignments for days they aren’t in the classroom.

Classes will operate at sizes that leave enough room for social distancing, and schools in the district will provide activities afterschool when possible.

Schools will use Microsoft Teams consistently for digital work to avoid problems with switching between platforms, and elective courses will be provided “with flexible activities.”

RELATED: Seattle Public Schools superintendent recommends starting school remotely this fall

Distance learning – School buildings closed

If school buildings aren’t allowed to reopen in the county this fall, students will still have a “real-time school day” with one or multiple teachers.

There will be a pre-identified start and stop time, with specific times set aside for different periods or subjects. Instruction will also include a mix of live teaching, group work and independent activities.

There will be specialist and elective courses available during distance learning, and there will also be pre-set times for “intervention support” and to speak with teachers.

Like for high school and middle school students if buildings were to reopen, Microsoft Teams will be the sole platform used for distance learning across the district.

Laptops will be available for check-out for all students, and there will be opportunities for limited in-person instruction in small groups.

Special Education services

As for students in special education classes or programs, in-person services will be prioritized when such meetings are safe.

Distance learning will be provided for families who choose to enroll their student(s) in that option, and will include options for all of the district’s special education offerings.

The district said it will work with families at the start of the school year to help decide what services will be needed to “address the impact of COVID on each student’s academic and social/emotional wellbeing.”

RELATED: SPS ranks high school sports based on coronavirus risks

SPS athletics and activities

As for athletics and other activities sanctioned by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the district plans on following the WIAA’s previously released schedule of revises sports seasons.

However, the athletic directors in the Greater Spokane League, to which SPS schools belong, have already recommended that the league not use the alternate fall season, which is the first sports season this year. That move is currently pending approval from the WIAA.