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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Everett Public Schools starts larger hybrid program

Kindergarten and first graders can return Feb. 8


Last updated 9/1/2021 at 11:59am

Photo courtesy of Everett Public Schools

Mill Creek Elementary school leadership -- principal Brenda Fuglevand (right) and vice principal Kristin Dickert (left) -- pose for a masked portrait in advance of the hybrid re-opening for kindergarteners and first graders.

Editor's comment: this is part of ongoing coverage of the re-opening of Mill Creek area schools. This hybrid education story may update, if any changes occur during the week it is posted, for the Jan. 29 print edition. New print editions of the Mill Creek Beacon publish every Friday. Subscribe here: or call to subscribe: 425-347-5634.

Mill Creek kindergarteners and first-graders attending the Everett Public Schools will have the option to learn onsite starting Feb. 8.

A hybrid program begins that day, according to a district announcement Jan. 25.

“We are excited to see more students return to the classroom. It is great to have some back now and are really looking forward to our next group returning Feb. 8. We have prepared well and thank the community for their support,” said Superintendent Ian Saltzman.

Parents of kindergarteners and first-graders will be able to opt-in or opt-out to two days per week of onsite learning at the following schools in Mill Creek and Bothell:

• Cedar Wood Elementary, 3414 168th St. SE, Bothell.

• Mill Creek Elementary, 3400 148th St. SE, Mill Creek.

• Tambarck Elementary, 4419 180th St. SE, Bothell.

• Woodside Elementary, 17000 23rd Ave. SE, Bothell.

Middle schoolers at Heatherwood and high schoolers at Jackson will be phased in at a later date.

The plan will bring in half of the kindergarteners and first-graders Mondays and Tuesdays and half on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be a fully remote school day, said Caroline Mason, president of the Everett School Board.

A new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.7. is now present in Snohomish County, but the Snohomish Health District is maintaining all the pre-variant advice for prevention of viral spread.

About 80 students were brought back Jan. 19, across 17 school buildings for the first phase of onsite learning in the developmental kindergarten, STRIVE and Life Skills programs at Everett Public Schools.

As of Jan. 29, no cases of the virus were reported within Everett Public Schools.

"We have not had any cases tracked to being in school, but in the last week we have had one student and five staff who have tested positive for COVID, but they did not get exposed while at school," said Kathy Reeves, communications director.

Some families with students in those programs chose to stay 100% remote, and that decision will be the same for the incoming group of kindergarten and first-grade families.

Kids under the age of 16 who have underlying illnesses that cause a higher risk with COVID-19 exposure have no vaccine available for emergency use. The Pfizer vaccine is cleared for 16 and older, according to the FDA. The Moderna vaccine is for 18 and older.

"There might be some high school students that get the vaccination, but the timing of that is just so unknown at this point," Mason said.

Households deciding to opt for hybrid education weigh it against individual risk as well as the risk to people in their homes.

Dr. Chris Spitters in the weekly briefing on COVID-19 for media was asked if a COVID vaccination option was in the works for kids under the age of 16, or if there was any compassionate use option for kids with underlying conditions. None are available at present, but he anticipates that will change.

"I think some of the ongoing work will address kids, (but) I don't know how soon that will come," Spitters said.

Some kids have become severely ill from COVID-19 but the risk for most kids is low.

The public health effort is focused on adults, "ultimately some solution I think will come along to include kids, but there's nothing immediately on the horizon."

The lack may factor into family decisions to opt out.

"There are going to be families who don't feel comfortable coming back into the classroom and families that can't go back into the classroom until their children are vaccinated," Mason said.

In the Mill Creek area, schools about to reopen to kindergarteners and first-graders, the reentry will include fewer people, as well as the now-familiar pandemic protocols of social distancing and masking-up, as well as amped-up cleaning protocols.

"The cleaning measures have dramatically changed, since this all happened – what cleaning looks like at the end of the day," Mason said. End-of-day cleaning always happens in the schools, but now it is "more detailed and in depth."

For the hybrid restart, deeper cleaning is scheduled every Wednesday and Friday, coordinated as the two groups change over.

Other precautions are also in place. The classrooms are prepared with desks 6 feet apart, and shielding is installed where needed. Student and staff temperatures will be taken daily, and masks are required for everyone onsite.

Vaccines for teachers

As the hybrid program kicks off, schools are still waiting to find out when teachers will be vaccinated.

The vaccination effort is still in its first phase, and teachers are in Phase 2, which has not yet begun. As of Jan. 22, the DOH reported more than 390,000 COVID-19 vaccines were given in Washington state. Each person is advised to get two doses.

"We're all waiting for an answer" on vaccination-access for teachers, Mason said.

Teachers are in the "2a" phase of the vaccination effort; the upcoming phase that follows health-care workers, first responders, and people in congregate settings.

"Teachers are in that pool" for Phase 2, she said.

The CDC Phased in Allocation of COVID-19 vaccines is here and includes "frontline essential workers" who are more likely to come in contact with infection risk. It also includes police officers and firefighters, as well as workers in food and agriculture, corrections, postal service, transit, and grocery.

The phases are determined by risks for either infection and or severe illness. The bulk of the population in some school buildings is younger than the age of 16, so teachers would be exposed if a student is infected.

Most of the teachers for Everett Public Schools are looking forward to a return, Mason said.

"Our superintendent and the leads of our unions have done a really good job of being in constant communication through this whole process," she said. "There's going to be some staff or some teachers that don't feel it's time, but there are a whole lot that have been dying to come back."

Some will opt out of a return prior to the vaccine, due to an underlying health concern or a home that has a person with an underlying illness that increases a risk of dangerous illness from COVID-19.

Some have a child who cannot be vaccinated for the virus, "and so they just can't be exposed. And there's going to be some staff that don't feel it's safe, even though they don't have a medical reason but are just, you know, feeling anxious with everything, all the changes and everything going on in our world."

The district is working with people when they have a need to stay remote.

The unveiling of the hybrid program has been considered and stalled before. Educators and health officials have been in discussions since September.

"All the research so far from the beginning of last March until now suggests that we can bring kids back into the classroom safely, even without the vaccine, although that's certainly an added layer that makes everyone feel safer," Mason said.

So far, there have been no updates on when teachers will get access to the vaccine, she said, but an update is anticipated in the coming days.

Saltzman was one of three school leaders to advocate for teachers in the prioritization process for COVID-19 vaccines.

The status of when that will happen is hard to gauge, Mason said, since the state does not know how many doses its going to get. That number would help the planning effort, as school officials estimate when the next phase would begin.

"I can tell you as soon as we have the doses and teachers are on the docket, we will make sure that they get the shots. Right away, we'll set up clinics in our schools," Mason said.

The discussion on hybrid or pure remote learning has been ongoing, since September, Mason said.

"We've just been put on hold, waiting for the governor and the health department" to recommend a restart, she said early in January.


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