Coronavirus may not discriminate, but that does not mean the necessary response to the outbreak will be equally felt by Washington residents.
Emergency measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 will create greater hardships for those already struggling to provide for themselves and their families. That is particularly true as statewide school closures take effect on Tuesday.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to close the state’s public and private K-12 schools through April 24 will slow the spread of the deadly virus. It will also upend the schedules of more than 1.1 million K-12 students and their caregivers, many of whom rely on schools not only for instruction but also for essential daily needs.
With athletics practices canceled, and libraries, community and fitness centers closed to encourage social distancing, some students will be in danger of becoming socially isolated from peers and trusted adults.
In its guidance to school districts, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction urged school officials to consider equity in their plans for this spring’s extended closure, cautioning them to ensure all students, including special-education students,,would have equal access to interim instruction. Districts should also consider how schools can continue to provide essential services.
That includes nutrition for the 45% of the state’s public school students who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch; the children of workers who cannot telecommute; and students experiencing homelessness, students with disabilities and others for whom school provides a critical safety net.
Across the state, school districts, community organizations and individuals are stepping up to address the need, particularly for nutritious food, with many expanding offerings to include not only grab-and-go lunches, but next-morning’s breakfast and perhaps a bag of groceries. The eagerness of so many people to support Washington’s students is truly inspirational.
But that there is so much for them to do raises the question of persistent inequities in schools and in the larger community.
Such stark inequities should be as unthinkable during good times as they are today.