With Washington’s K-12 public schools closed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, school district leaders in Whitman County say they are focused on strategies to deliver optional instruction — and food — to students during the break.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week announced the closure of all public and private schools in the state until April 27 at the earliest.

Since the announcement, superintendents in Pullman, Colton, Colfax and the Garfield-Palouse school districts say they have been developing ways for students to continue their education through the break.

“(It’s) strictly enrichment, totally optional, not required,” explained Garfield-Palouse Superintendent Calvin Johnson. “It’s just something for the parents that want to keep their kids up on things a little bit and not fall so far behind — of course everybody will be behind.”

Johnson said his district will offer packets of learning materials that parents and students can physically pick up. Colton Superintendent Paul Clark said his district will also offer voluntary enrichment opportunities to students while schools are closed, as will the Pullman School District.

Clark said these activities are being offered on a voluntary basis. He said they will offer these materials as “enrichment” opportunities, which are not intended to take the place of instructional days.

District officials across Whitman County say it is still uncertain if students will have to attend school in the summer to make up for lost time.

“June 19th is typically, in a normal year, the (last) day we have to extend our calendar to before they would forgive,” Johnson said. “But this is not a typical year, and there’s discussions of changing lots of things — so it’s just totally up in the air at this point.”

Colfax Superintendent Jerry Pugh said he hopes to have enrichment learning materials available to students by Monday. Pugh said the plan is to deliver these materials at the same time that parents would pick up prepackaged meals that will be available through the closure

“It will be hopefully in one fell swoop,” Pugh said. “If a parent has a third-grader, they’re picking up their breakfast and lunch grab-and-go, and we’ll have a packet of a week’s worth of work for them to review with their children.”

All local Whitman County districts committed to offering prepackaged “grab-and-go” meals through the closures. Pullman Schools will begin offering meals for pick-up starting today, Colton and Colfax expect to start their programs Thursday and Garfield-Palouse students can pick up meals starting Monday. Johnson said parents of Garfield-Palouse students should contact the district if they plan on picking up meals for their children to ensure there is enough food prepared for everyone.

Officials say meals will be available at specific times of the day and can be picked up at schools or at certain bus stop locations. Complete schedules for meal pick up times and sites will be posted on individual district webpages, they said.

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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