Preliminary closure plans given to Othello School Board

by Cheryl Schweizer
Staff Writer | March 17, 2020 11:37 PM

OTHELLO — Othello School District officials haven’t announced yet how they plan to conduct school during an emergency shutdown ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee, but it won’t be online.

The school closure will begin March 17 and will extend through April 24. Othello superintendent Chris Hurst said the closure will last the entire six weeks, according to state officials. School officials laid out preliminary plans at a special meeting of the Othello School Board on Friday.

Assistant Superintendent Pete Perez said district officials had been working on a plan in case schools close, and part of that was a discussion of online classes.

”We don’t have any plans currently to provide distance learning or online options for our students,” Perez said. “I think it seems like a really good idea, but it’s very difficult to pull off, very difficult to do.” The Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office is advising against it, he said.

District officials announced on social media Sunday that more details would be forthcoming Monday. School was to be in session Monday, when students would be given the latest information about closure plans.

State officials have mandated that schools will be required to make up at least part of the lost days, Hurst said.

“We have been given a direction that our graduation date will not change, and that June 19 will be our last day,” he said.

Schools will be required to continue providing breakfast and lunch for qualifying children, Perez said. District officials have talked about establishing distribution points throughout the community, based on bus routes.

“Kids could walk up, grab a sack lunch, or breakfast, and head home. We’ve also talked about mobile delivery options, utilizing our transportation staff, and visiting some of the more populated centers that our students live in,” Perez said.

Hurst said districts will continue to receive their school apportionment funds and will be required to pay teachers and hourly employees.

Districts will be required to provide child care for families of health care workers, Perez said, and state officials also want schools to provide child care for low-income families.

“Most of our children are living in those circumstances (low income), so we’re going to have to think through that one carefully. Is there another filter that we use to decide who might be able to come in for child care? But at a minimum, we will provide it for health care workers and first responders,” Perez said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.