Washington’s 9th Legislative District Sen. Mark Schoesler told the Pullman City Council on Tuesday that reopening schools for at least some of the student population is “paramount” for the state.

Schoesler, R-Ritzville, joined 9th Legislative Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, and Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, in meeting with the city council to talk about legislative issues related to COVID-19, the possibility of a carbon tax, mental health resources and other issues.

Schoesler said he has heard stories in his district of academic failures, children with mental health problems and parents having difficulty finding day care options as schools have closed their doors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Getting those schools at least open for the younger kids at the earliest possible time is paramount to several of the problems we’re facing,” he said.

Then, he said, the taxpayers must face the issue of how to catch up on months of “less than desirable education.”

“Somewhere we have to make up that ground academically,” he said.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson said he has heard of local families moving their children to Colfax schools where they are having in-person classes.

Schmick said he is going to push to reopen schools, and he cited concerns about the mental health of children not attending schools in person. As an example, he said numbers show suicides among the youth have increased.

While talking about the upcoming legislative session, Schoesler said he is also concerned about the potential for a carbon tax that he said will disproportionately hurt rural residents.

Dye discussed Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal of requiring new buildings to be carbon-free by 2030 and eliminating fossil fuels from existing buildings by 2050 and warned of significant costs associated with that effort.

Schoesler also stated he is concerned about businesses being on the hook to pay unemployment insurance, even if those businesses have shut down because of the pandemic.

The legislators heard concerns from the council about Whitman County not being on the first list of counties to receive shipments of COVID-19 vaccines, the risk of losing small businesses if COVID-19 restrictions continue, and supporting the Washington police and fire academies to ensure law enforcement and firefighting positions are filled.

Tuesday’s meeting can be viewed on the City of Pullman’s YouTube channel.

In other business, the city council approved $732,050 in grant funding from the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board toward constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Terre View Drive and North Fairway Drive. The $984,385 project will begin construction in 2022.

The city also approved a $250,000 grant from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee for the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport. The airport is raising $1.5 million as a revenue guarantee that would allow interested airlines to provide flights to Denver.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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