Inslee: Schools should reopen for in-person learning

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that public schools in the state can open up for more in-person learning as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

At a news conference, Inslee didn’t offer many specifics but said the state was increasing the number of days children can be back in the classroom. Many districts – including Seattle, the state’s largest – have been largely closed for in-person instruction for almost a year during the pandemic.

Decisions about how and when to reopen schools to students are largely left to individual districts.

The Democratic governor said moving toward more in-person instruction is in line with the scientific consensus and the latest guidance from federal officials. Inslee said online learning leaves many students at a disadvantage.

Although Inslee's office has not released specifics, the news briefing comes a few days after the CDC provided a roadmap for reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic, emphasizing mask-wearing and social distancing and saying vaccination of teachers is important but not a prerequisite for reopening.

The governor made those same assertions weeks before the CDC's update was released, despite a push from the state's teachers union to move teachers up on the vaccine priority list. 

RELATED: Inslee says no early vaccines planned for teachers

"I just do not believe that a 25-year-old teacher thinks they should get in line ahead of their 80-year-old grandparents, fundamentally don’t believe that," Inslee said in late January. 

The CDC report says there is strong evidence now that in-person schooling can be done safely, especially at lower grade levels, and the guidance is targeted at schools that teach kindergarten up to 12th grade.

Some school districts in Washingon state have resumed some form of hybrid in-person learning for special needs and the youngest of students, though older kids are largely learning at home. 

Meanwhile, state Superintendent of Public Instruction is working with Kaiser Permanente to roll out a vaccination program for teachers

The Associated Press contributed to this report.