Earlier this week, Governor Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Reykdal announced an update in the metrics used to inform local school district decisions for in-person learning. These updates come after data showed limited COVID-19 transmission in school environments when state health and safety protocols are implemented.
The Washington State Department of Health's (DOH) updated metrics for re-introducing in-person learning includes three categories:
- For schools in communities where COVID-19 cases are "low" (less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents), in-person learning should be made available for all students.
- In communities where COVID-19 cases are "moderate" (between 50 and 350 cases per 100,000 residents), in-person learning should be phased in, starting with elementary students not already attending in person and middle school students, followed by high school students.
- Finally, in communities where COVID-19 cases are "high" (over 350 cases per 100,000 residents), it's recommended that schools should only offer in-person instruction for elementary and high-need students (of any grade) in small groups of 15 students or fewer.
The DOH recommends that districts start small and slowly expand in-person learning over time. They advise districts to wait for trends to flatten or be actively decreasing before expanding in-person learning, but maintain in-person learning for those grades who already have it. Districts should continue to work with their local health jurisdiction to evaluate the COVID activity levels in their communities when considering in-person learning.
Related to safety in schools, the governor issued an accompanying proclamation requiring schools by law to implement health and safety measures, and mandates staff involvement in health and safety related decisions.
What this means for Monroe School District
After winter break on January 4, our preschool, kindergarten, and students with the highest needs will continue to attend in-person in our traditional schools as they are now. Before we make decisions about returning additional grades or groups to in-person learning, we will be evaluating current metrics, ensuring all health and safety mitigation strategies are in place, and working to formalize agreements with our union partners.
In the meantime, we hope you have a joyous and relaxing winter break.
Dr. Justin Blasko