Here's How Inslee's Schools Order Affects Hybrid Learning Options in Thurston County


Gov. Jay Inslee's new emergency proclamation requiring school districts to offer hybrid learning options to all students by April will speed up in-person options at some Thurston County schools.

The emergency proclamation, announced a year after Inslee closed schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, requires schools to offer all students in grades K-6 the option for hybrid learning by April 5. All other K-12 students — middle and high schoolers — must be offered the same by April 19, according to the proclamation.

Schools are required to offer at least 30 percent of average weekly instructional hours in the form of in-person learning and students cannot be offered less than two days of in-person instruction each week, although it can be partial days.

Full-time remote learning will still be an option for families who prefer that.

In Thurston County, the proclamation will affect plans at North Thurston Public Schools, but not at Olympia and Tumwater school districts.

North Thurston already has been planning to offer hybrid options in all K-12 grades by next month, the Olympian previously reported. The district has about 5,000 elementary students back at school now, with more grades expected next week, said district spokesperson Kristen Jaudon.

Currently, the district will begin offering hybrid options for sixth grade on Monday, grades 7-8 by March 24, 12th grade by March 29 and ninth grade by April 12.

Prior to the new proclamation, the district intended to add hybrid options for 10th and 11th grades by April 21. The new proclamation means North Thurston will have to offer hybrid options to those high school sophomores and juniors a few days earlier, Jaudon said.

"It's a small adjustment for two grades," Jaudon said. "There's negotiation that needs to happen but North Thurston intends to be in compliance with the governor's order."

The district negotiated with the North Thurston Education Association when setting the April 21 date with the intent to give the schools enough time between populations to evaluate the efficacy of safety measures, said NTEA president Ray Nelson.

"We've had a few cases (of COVID-19) pop up here and there, but so far no clear cases of in-school transmission," Nelson said. "We've done a pretty good job at our elementary (schools). ... It's really about easing in like (county health officer Dimyana Abdelmalek) has said, you know, slow and cautious."

He said the association will probably meet with the district this week to determine if high schools will be ready to bring in those two grades a few days early. He said most teachers have been generally satisfied with the safety measures the district has employed so far.

"The attitude has been slowly changing," Nelson said. "And then of course with the accessibility of the vaccine and a lot of good news out there I think ... it really did a turnaround in a lot of people's minds about our ability to get this done."

Based on current planning, Olympia schools are due to meet Inslee's requirement ahead of his deadline, according to a statement from the district.

Hybrid options will be available for sixth graders on Monday, grades 7-9 on March 22 and grades 10-12 on March 29, per the statement.

"Once Gov. Inslee's proclamation is issued, we will carefully review the information to assure we are meeting all requirements," the statement read.

Meanwhile, Tumwater schools returned to a hybrid learning model for grades 3-6 in mid-February and grades 7-8 on March 1. And the district will begin hybrid learning options to grades 9-12 on Monday, meaning they will not be impacted by Inslee's proclamation.

Laurie Wiedenmeyer, spokesperson for Tumwater schools, said the district is constantly looking at ways to safely increase the number of hours students can attend in-person instructions. She said the transition has gone well so far.

"We're happy to have our kids back because it's been great," Wiedenmeyer said.

Olympia and Tumwater Education Association representatives did not respond to a request for comment.