Gov. Inslee says ‘it is time’ to bring K-5 students back into the classroom

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Inslee announced new guidance to bring grade school students back to in-person learning.

These new guidelines will help inform school districts on bringing students grades K-5 back to the classroom — it will be up to local boards and districts to determine when and if they will move forward with the recommendations.

“We know that because of the new science we have, it is time to begin the process of bringing more students into the classroom,” said Inslee.

Data from the Governor’s Office indicates that safety measures in schools are almost equally as effective in curbing COVID transmission as remote or hybrid learning. Grade schools, nationwide, have turned out to not be the superspreader sites they were once expected to be last summer.

RELATED: Spokane Public Schools sees low COVID-19 transmission rates, prepares to welcome more students back

Countermeasures like face masks, social distancing, hand washing and ventilation cut transmission in half compared to open schools with no countermeasures, according to data from the Governor’s Office.

Additionally, Inslee noted that many students rely on school not just for education, but for social services, food and more.

“We know that there are great inequities in our society,” said Inslee, “and so the inequities we’ve always suffered in education are, now, more pronounced.”

According to the new guidance, when COVID cases in a community represent less than 50 per 100,000 population, schools are recommended to phase students back in. When COVID cases exceed 50 but are less than 350 per 100,000 population, schools are recommended to phase in youngest students first — like Spokane-area schools have been.

Older students are lowest-priority due to how they transmit COVID differently, and as of right now, high schoolers are not recommended to return to in-person learning. Inslee said part of the reason is that younger students are more diligent in wearing masks and following safety measures than teenagers.

Lastly, if a community has COVID cases over 350 per 100,000 population, schools are recommended to only phase-in students with the greatest needs, and only in 15-person small groups at most.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Most COVID-19 cases in schools are not transmitted in the classroom, says Dr. Lutz