Washington State suggests schools give priority to nonwhite students during reopening

Students 'furthest from educational justice' should be addressed first, policy suggests.

Updated: July 8, 2020 - 11:24pm

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Washington state is considering a plan that would give priority to minority and disadvantaged students when schools reopen in the fall following months of closure during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Like most state chief executives across the country, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee shuttered his state's public schools earlier in the year as part of a coronavirus mitigation plan. States have lately begun considering how they will re-open their schools in the fall, if at all.

Education officials across the country have proposed various plans incorporating alternating schedules, "cohorting" of students, and distance learning programs, while others have suggested the entire upcoming school year may consist entirely of virtual classrooms. 

A "district planning guide" released last month by Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, makes similar suggestions, but it also suggests granting priority to non-white students during proposed reopening phases. 

The guide cited a theoretical reopening plan that would "serve students furthest from educational justice first," among which it cited "students of color."

Others recommended to receive priority reopening slots included "students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, [and] students experiencing poverty." 

The superintendent's office quietly updated that section of the document on Wednesday following growing media response to the proposal, though the basic thrust of the proposed policy — one in which some students are given priority attention over others — was not altered. 

In its "revision log," the document says the Wednesday edits "added clarifying text to the section about phasing students in by priority." 

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