Parents with back-to-school questions get answers from Washington state's top educator

In just days, more than a million kids in this state will start a school year unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Almost all will be learning from home due to the pandemic.

With that comes lots of questions from parents, scrambling to make the best decisions for their families and their kids’ education.

So we went all the way to the top, as in, the top educator in the state, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

We set up a Virtual Town Hall Event, allowing parents to ask their questions and get much-needed answers.

We thought you’d benefit from the conversation. 

Here are some of the topics discussed and a small portion of Reykdal's answers:

Assistance for Working Parents:

Superintendent Reykdal: “I think you have identified the most gut-wrenching part about this. What we have tasked districts and our guidance is that they need to be brokers of childcare supports for families.” 

“They should take the active and direct lead role in connecting families who need a childcare support options with somebody in the community that provides it.” 

Holding School Districts Accountable During Remote Learning:

Superintendent Reykdal: “They have about 23 or 24 metrics that they have to meet. We do have requirements in this state about days and hours, and while those hours are significantly more flexible in how they’re deployed, we get to check on that.” 

In the Era of Remote Learning, How Do Parents Avoid Too Much Screen Time? 

Superintendent Reykdal: “I want to be unequivocal here. The requirement from the state is not that students are in front of screens for five or six hours a day. It’s not the same model, moved online, where teachers are in front of students for six straight hours.” 

Holding Clarifying State's Recommendations to School Districts About When to Reopen Schools for In-person Learning: 

Superintendent Reykdal: “What we were trying to do here at the state level is that very small rural remote districts will have a very different opportunity than very urban districts with higher population densities and higher risk factors. The governor and I were trying to create more flexibility around that.”

Homeschool Advice:  

Superintendent Reykdal: “What I would say is, as much as you can stay connected to the school district, do so because you are getting pacing guides and you are getting an expectation for learning that has a continuity to it for the year. Particularly, if we return to school face-to-face the student is keeping up with their peers”

Early Learning:

Superintendent Reykdal: “Our learning system is best designed when kids are together. That’s just where it’s at. And so, I think we all want to get there. I think what you’re going to see is a lot of educators who are building a sort of social-emotional and relationship building skills even remotely this year.” 

Navigating Special Education and Getting Support Services for Your Child:

Superintendent Reykdal: “Where families believe the requirements of the IEP and the supports they need can’t be done remotely effectively, and you're in a district that’s starting that way, it’s really important that you are engaging the school district now to say, 'I don’t think the I.E.P. that we agreed to and built together is going to be accommodated effectively remotely.'” 

Immunizations Required for Students Who are Learning from Home:

Immunization requirements don’t have to be met initially if a student is fully engaged in remote learning. However, if they intend to come back to school, even if it’s in small groups, they will need to have met the requirements. 

Here's more info: School Vaccine Requirements Distance Learning during COVID-19

If you’d like to watch the virtual town hall, we’ve posted it here: