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Parents mull homeschooling as educators conceive learning amid COVID-19 pandemic

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With the upcoming school year just a few weeks away, several parents say they are considering homeschooling their children because they dislike new guidelines released by the state that will apply to education in the post-coronavirus environment.

Chris Reykdal, the state superintendent, said he expects schools to reopen for in-person education this fall in the wake of new requirements for state schools that have been endorsed by his office and state health officials. Those directives inlcude masks for students and teachers along with social distancing practiced on campuses.

Several parents say those new requirements aren’t realistic for young children.

"To have masks on while you’re trying to learn and be in this environment can already be overwhelming," said parent Ana Safavi, who is choosing to homeschool her two kids for the upcoming school year.

She said she worries about the social dynamics of physical distancing, and believes it will be difficult for her future first-grader to wear a mask.

"I know that he’s going to have more anxiety about that," Safavi said. "He’s already a pretty high anxiety child."

In addition to wearing masks and physical distancing, the new state requirements for schools reopening this fall include:

  • Ensuring that campuses have a thorough sanitizing of classrooms and buses;
  • Encouraging frequent hand washing;
  • Screening students and staff for every day for COVID-19.

While every school across the state must implement these requirements for in-person learning this fall, it’s up to each district to decide what model of education they want to follow. That discretion could mean districts will decide themselves among returning to class full-time, part-time, offering virtual learning or a combination approach of multiple models.

However, OSPI officials said school districts should be prepared to return to remote learning if health reasons dictate.

Tim Robinson, spokesman for Seattle Public Schools, said it is reasonable to expect young students will comply with directives for social distancing and masks.

"I would say yes, because they’re probably getting used to that already at home," he said. "It’s a different world."

Robinson says Seattle Public Schools is considering a variety of models for the new school year, some involve staggered schedules for students and a mix of remote and in-person learning.

The district has held multiple meetings over the last two weeks, discussing with students, teachers and parents on how to move forward. Officials with Seattle Public Schools are expected to announce more specifics of their plan on Friday.

"We are going to do everything we can to keep things as safe as possible," Robinson said.

The Seattle Education Association says this process to make a decision is moving too quickly.

"My concern is that we rush to a decision," said Jennifer Matter, spokeswoman for the Seattle Education Association. "I really think that it’s a complex issue."

School staffers say they are waiting for plan details on restarting in-person learning to come soon.

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"Our educators need as much time as possible to prepare for what is surely going to be a unique situation," Robinson said.

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