School Board approves "earliest return" in January

School Board approves "earliest return" in January
Posted on 11/13/2020
The earliest possible date for elementary students to return to in-person/hybrid learning will be in January, according to action taken by the Tahoma School Board on Tuesday. The earliest possible return for secondary students is proposed for after the semester break on Jan. 26, if COVID-19 rates allow.

“We will be carefully monitoring health conditions as we head out of the holiday season. We are being cautious to not instill a false sense of expectation regarding reentry for large cohorts. We recently had another positive case in one of our schools and continue to seek guidance from county and state health officials regarding additional cohorts returning to class,” Superintendent Mike Hanson said. “We are thankful to our community and families for their patience and partnership. We are also appreciative to our amazing staff as they have adapted so quickly to changing conditions and expectations.”

The board’s action came after the district’s COVID-19 Task Force made a recommendation regarding the earliest return date, during the board’s Oct. 27 meeting. Task force members shared with the board that the primary reasons for their recommendation were input from parent/guardian and staff surveys, the timing of Winter Break and the likely increase in transmission rates during the holidays, following the state Department of Health Decision Tree’s recommendations for phased re-entry and calendar considerations at the secondary level to support the timing of the semesters.

Other considerations that the task force mentioned included the social-emotional health of students, the quality of the remote and in-person programs, trends in COVID-19 rates (including local vs. county rates), Public Health protocols, the ability to staff not only classrooms but fill sub positions, bus driver positions and other vital needs throughout the district, student/family needs in the community such as childcare and other factors.

During the Oct. 27 meeting, the board members asked clarifying questions and decided to wait until this week’s meeting to make a decision.

The district continues to stay in contact with health officials from Public Health -- Seattle & King County, as well as the state Department of Health. It regularly monitors the transmission rate for Maple Valley and King County, along with the other Key Indicators listed in the DOH Decision Tree, which was recently updated: Current Decision Tree document.

In general, hybrid/in-person learning is not recommended until the COVID-19 activity level is fewer than 75 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days. Today’s rate in King County is 212 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks. Maple Valley’s rate today is at 165.7 (This does not include surrounding areas such as unincorporated Hobart, Renton, Black Diamond, Kent and King County, some parts of which fall within the Tahoma School District boundaries). The Decision Tree further calls for beginning with “careful phasing in of in-person learning, starting with elementary students,” then “Over time, if schools can demonstrate the ability to limit transmission in the school environment, add in-person learning for middle and high school students.”

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