Health District: Elementary schools can start planning for in-person instruction

Not recommended that middle and high school students return to in-person learning at this time

Series: Coronavirus | Story 150

Last updated 10/19/2020 at 12:13pm

Chris Spitters

Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said Friday, Sept. 11, that based on ongoing moderate but declining COVID-19 transmission, elementary schools can start to plan on resuming in-person instruction.

Spitters provided updated recommendations for public and private K-12 schools in Snohomish County.

"A reasonable next step is for schools to begin planning for how to expand in-person learning to elementary school students, as well as to any high-needs students in any grade level not already receiving in-person services," Spitters said. "This does not mean schools should immediately go to full, in-person attendance in all elementary school settings."

The guidance is based on the Washington State Department of Health's (DOH's) Decision Tree for In-Person Learning framework for proceeding forward, while deferring to schools on how to best serve their students within that general framework and statewide guidelines.

Schools have been asked to wait for at least three weeks to allow observation following both the Labor Day holiday and the re-opening of schools in their current configuration.

If at that time COVID-19 activity in the school and community remains stable or improving, and the schools feel prepared, then they can proceed with bringing elementary school students back incrementally for in-person learning.

After one group of students have resumed in-person learning, schools should allow for at least three weeks before bringing in the next group. This allows some time to detect any impacts to disease transmission prior to making the next move in a planned sequence.

Local conditions, resources, and other factors within the school's domain may lead a school or district to decide to move slower than this framework allows for.

Aside from middle or high school students receiving support services in small, cohort groups, it is not recommended that middle and high school students return to in-person learning at this time.

The Health District finds that teenage students:

• have higher rates of COVID-19 than younger children;

• are probably more likely to spread COVID-19 if infected; and

• as a group, appear to face fewer challenges in remote learning.

Aside from special- or high-needs students, middle and high school students should remain in remote or distance learning for the time being.

If elementary school students are able to return to in-person learning in a safe and stable manner, maintaining similar or better COVID-19 circumstances overall, then the Health District will update these recommendations to address in-person learning for middle and high school students.

In line with DOH guidance, the Health District continues to recommend against holding school-based extracurricular activities in-person until all students have had at least some access to in-person learning, and COVID-19 activity in the community is otherwise so permitting.

"It is inevitable that cases will occur in students and school staff as we bring more people together, but a case is not a failure on the school or district," Spitters added. "We all must be prepared and ready to respond in a coordinated and sustainable fashion."

For more information on the updated recommendations for schools, go to ).


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