At the Chamber, we are laser-focused on the health of local businesses in our community and getting our members open and operating at full capacity as safely and as soon as possible. However, it’s clear that safely reopening our economy in full will not be possible until we safely reopen our schools.
Governor Inslee’s announcement yesterday is a welcome step forward to safely reopening our schools. As business leaders, we should applaud this progress. However, the governor does not have the authority to reopen schools which makes it a district-by-district decision. We ask all our members to reach out to local school boards to encourage them to immediately plan for reopening, including prioritizing plans for K-5 students.
We know from research produced by the Institute for Disease Modeling that in-school transmission rates can be greatly reduced by taking appropriate countermeasures like symptom screening, face coverings, social distancing, and hybrid scheduling. A shoutout to Microsoft. which today announced that it will make significant investments to help schools reopen safely.
We also know that, even with many teachers’ valiant efforts, remote learning is not an adequate substitute for in-person learning. The longer kids are doing virtual school, the greater their learning loss. A recent McKinsey study found that this learning loss has a disproportionate impact on low-income students and students of color. We will not be able to rebuild our economy so that it is more competitive, equitable, and resilient if our kids are falling behind day after day.
And finally, 2020 has been a stark reminder that our childcare system is inadequate and poorly designed. As employers, we have a clear interest in making sure our employees have access to affordable, quality childcare. As a business community, we should lead the way on rethinking this system and putting our considerable brainpower toward an innovative new way forward.
Please applaud the Governor for taking steps to reopen schools faster, reach out to your local school board, make sure they know about the new standards for reopening, and make sure they are putting together plans that follow the science to get our kids back into school as soon as possible.