Watch the August 3, 2020 KOMO TV News interview HERE

Some Puget Sound independent schools say they are planning to start the academic school year with on-site learning even though many public school systems plan to start with remote learning to avoid a COVID-19 spike this fall.

The schools that will reopen with in-class learning include Annie Wright Schools, Charles Wright Academy and Life Christian Academy, all located in Pierce County.

Many western Washington public schools have announced their plans for when school resumes this fall; and it includes several different approaches.

“They have to make sure they can abide by all of the safety precautions and do a really good job of making sure their kids and teachers are safe,” said Suzie Hanson, executive director of the Washington Federation of Independent Schools.

Those precautions for on-site learning include:

  • Student desks that are spaced six feet apart;
  • Face masks are used;
  • Daily temperature checks are performed.

The guidelines are the same for public schools that plan to reconvene with hybrid learning plans in place.

But many county health directors insist that there should be no on-site learning yet.

“I think the challenge now is that with the way our cases are going and how widespread the COVID-19 infections are in our community, I just don’t think it’s safe for us to have the kids in school in person,” said Dr. Anthony Chen, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Director.

“We’re very grateful for all of their work,” Hanson said. “The health departments have been doing extraordinary jobs in keeping us informed on how and what to do in these scenarios. Luckily, private schools have some agility and size that allows them to make those determinations within their buildings.”

Each of the private schools issued written statements to KOMO News about their plans.

  • “Annie Wright Schools has spent hundreds of hours developing a reopening plan that meets or exceeds the guidelines put forward by the CDC, OSPI, AAP and DOH, and we have sought input on this plan from local medical and health experts. Should we reopen school with in-person instruction, we believe we can do so safely.”
  • “Charles Wright Academy is committed to delivering on-campus instruction that is safe for every student and every member of our community.”
  • “Life Christian Academy will be open five days a week for live and in-person classes in the Fall. We will also be providing an eLearning option for those students who are not on campus.”

Chen cautions that state health officials still have the authority to close schools down if COVID-19 spread rates begin to grow out of control.

“Yes, I do have the authority as the health officer,” Chen said. “I have the authority to issue orders for the protection of the health of the public and in this situation, I do have the authority to do that, but that’s not my particular style.”

Chen said he plans to meet again with independent school leaders to discuss their plans. There is some talk that Gov. Jay Inslee could also provide a school announcement later this week.