SUNNYSIDE — State Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced on Thursday, June 11, that all schools across the state of Washington will reopen their doors in fall for the 2020-2021 school year and on Friday, June 12, Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation outlining the state’s plan to safely reopen schools following the Safe Start phased approach.

Reykdal convened with over 120 representatives from across the state to consider how to reopen schools where ideas such as a split or rotating schedule with or without social distancing and concepts of phased-in opening approaches were discussed.

Ultimately, districts will have to construct a reopening plan following the health and safety guidance from the Department of Health, the Office of the Governor, and the Department of Labor and Industries to fit local context.

The guidance plan for reopening schools has provided a path that schools, educators, and families can prepare for in the coming months, according to Inslee.

With Yakima County remaining in Phase 1 for the foreseeable future, an autumn opening seems daunting.

The Sunnyside School District has been working behind the scenes since the Governor issued the statewide school closures on March 13, according to Superintendent Kevin McKay.

The superintendent expressed how the school districts realized early on the possibility that the COVID‑19 spread may continue throughout the summer and have an impact on the next school year, even though he would like students to return to the traditional environment they are used to.

“Most of our work has been internal, meaning it’s within the school district and we are going to move that to be external in the coming weeks,” McKay conveyed.

The plan Sunnyside School District has developed among its administrators, directors, teachers, and other staff members has been to create an advisory committee for the reopening of schools, which will be open to the public.

“Our goal is to have an advisory,” enunciated McKay, “and the advisory is made up of representatives from all the different stakeholder groups associated with the school.”

This advisory – tentatively slated for Wednesday, June 24 – would also include parents and community members with a vested interest. The large advisory, which McKay stressed could become too large to be able to handle all aspects of reopening, will then be split into smaller sub-advisories including parents and community members with specific interests regarding reopening, such as athletics.

“We had to figure out a way to break it apart but still get the input of those different stakeholder groups,” McKay stressed.

While concerns of the county remaining in Phase 1 and therefore inciting the possibility of remaining in a distance learning module, McKay was reassured that his district “will be better when we start again at the beginning of the school year.”

Elizabeth Sustaita can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email esustaita@sunnysidesun.com.

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