First glimpse into what school will look like this fall in Washington

SEATTLE -- On Wednesday,  Q13 FOX got an exclusive first peek into what schools could look like this fall.

About 200 people met online for the first time on Wednesday, starting the process of answering the million-dollar question: How do you reopen schools safely this fall amid a pandemic?

Educators and other stakeholders brainstormed for most of the day.

One major point that became clear during the discussion is that outside of a vaccine or other major breakthroughs against the virus, traditional learning may not happen this fall for many school districts.

What’s at task now is the monumental process of reinventing a 150-year-old school system.

The results will vary, and what schools will look like will depend on what county and school district your family is in.

On Wednesday, seven possible models were discussed.

One option includes splitting or rotating school schedules so that way there is reduced person-to-person contact. Categories like age, grade, and student needs could be used as possible ways to rotate schedules.

Another model brought up could be rotating schedules combined with distance learning.

There is also the concept of the phased-in model meaning some groups of students could start learning in the classrooms while other students wait their turn. The phased-in model could come with or without distance learning.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is leading the complicated discussion and is emphasizing that nothing has been decided.

They expect to come up with a menu of options or guidelines by June and it will ultimately be up to local school districts to implement what is best for them.

“It will really depend on where the situation is at that point like we see now different areas of the state are in different situations. Some counties are moving into phase 2 and other counties hit harder by the virus are in phase 1 and I don’t think it will be a surprise that we will see different school districts around the state in the fall going into different models,” OSPI spokesperson Katy Payne said.

Educators heard from the state health department before mulling over the models.

Health experts laid out 3 different scenarios that could play out with the virus after looking at other pandemics in history. In the best case scenario we could see the virus slowly burning off, another possibility is that cases will ebb and flow. The worst case scenario that health experts worry about is a second wave when we could see cases surging in the fall.

With so much uncertainty, health experts told educators to have a plan but also a way to pivot from those plans depending on what happens with COVID-19.

Outside of a major breakthrough or vaccine, the new normal could be in place for not just months but years.

Many other steps were discussed on Wednesday including the possibility of taking temperatures of kids and their families before entering the classroom. Also  there is an expectation that students will have to wear masks but there are concerns on whether that is a realistic move for younger students.

School transportation is also a big sticking point that came up several times. It will be challenging to transport students on school buses and also adhere to social distancing recommendations.

The working group will meet several more times and OSPI says they hope to have guidelines by June.