The Clarkston School District will follow modified guidelines from public health officials to help determine if its schools can continue to stay open in a hybrid format during the coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent Thaynan Knowlton said that over a two-week period, Asotin County has reported 47 new cases of COVID-19, five of which were attributed to people within the district.
“You can see the virus does not seem to be spreading as fast in schools that are following the (safety) protocols like it has out in the community,” Knowlton said.
Since the start of the school year, the district has had 10 positive COVID-19 tests between staff and students, but those individuals were determined to have contracted the virus outside of a school setting.
The district has been tracking case numbers in the county with the help of the Asotin County Health District to make decisions on how education should be delivered to its students.
If the number of new cases in the county surpasses 28 in a rolling two-week window and remains higher than that number for a period of six weeks, the district was previously instructed to offer online learning to all of its students.
But Knowlton said the district received new guidance from the health department Friday. Before making a decision to switch to remote education, the district will now factor in how many cases the district has seen in a 14-day period. If that number remains low, the district will not have to make changes.
“The national and state data coming in says that children are not transmitting the virus as much as we thought they would,” Knowlton said. “Therefore our counts are not only low, but there is no transmission (within the schools), so that should factor into the decision-making.”
If the district starts to see rising case numbers or transmission within its schools, Knowlton said the district as a whole would switch to the remote delivery of education for a minimum of two weeks.
If cases remain low with no transmission, individual schools may still need to switch to remote learning for a two-week period if too many staff members have to quarantine because they were determined to be in close contact with an infected individual.
This week, about 20 staff members were asked to stay home after they were determined to have been in close contact with someone who tested possible.
“They are spread out through three buildings, so we are not understaffed at this point ... but there is a possible scenario that one of our schools gets to the point where there are not enough people to hold school (in person),” Knowlton said.
The district will continue to closely monitor the number of cases within the district and the county as it makes its decisions.
Kids in elementary school are currently attending a morning or afternoon session of school four days a week, while students at the secondary level are attending two days of in-person classes a week.
The district, like all of those offering in-person education in Washington, has mandated masks and has limited its capacity in schools to 50 percent to allow for social distancing of its students.
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