Walla Walla County COVID-19 positivity rates remain above the Washington Department of Health recommendation for resuming in-person learning prompting the district to delay transitioning to its Yellow Stage which would have allowed Pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade students to return to school for a hybrid AM/PM in-person program.
School board members held a special meeting Sept. 29 to review the data and discuss options on transitioning to the Yellow Stage of the district’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools based on a recent update from the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health.
Walla Walla County disease activity has been decreasing over the past month triggering a letter from local health officials to school district administrators Sept. 17 encouraging them to make preparations for a return to in-person learning. Since the letter was released, new cases continue to be recorded keeping the county from meeting the 75 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days standard established by the state. Since Walla Walla County doesn’t have 100,000 residents, the case count over a two week period must be 45 or lower for Walla Walla Public Schools to implement its modified in-person instruction model.
“We were hopeful the numbers would continue to decline to meet the state requirements, but we’re not there yet,” said School Board President Sam Wells. “We have all systems in place to reopen, but now we’re just waiting on the viral numbers to come down to allow us to go back to some form of in-person learning.”
The district hoped to implement its Pk-2nd grade AM/PM hybrid model for in-person instruction on Oct. 19 had viral trends continued to go down. Under this model most students would attend either a morning or afternoon session for face-to-face instruction, and receive their remaining learning remotely in order to comply with strict social distancing guidelines. A limited number of pre-identified students who receive special education, English learners and other remediation supports would receive a full day experience while in the Yellow Stage.
“Once rates reach 45 cases or less over a two-week period, we will transition to the Yellow Stage and allow our youngest learners to get back into our schools, consistent with state recommendations to start with the youngest learners first,” said Wells. “Once viral conditions dip below 30 cases or less over a two-week period, WWPS would then be in a position to bring back all students under our hybrid-learning plan.”
Walla Walla Public Schools will follow strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, according to state and local guidance, including use of face coverings, physical/social distancing and cleaning standards upon returning for in-person instruction.
More information regarding the district’s Safely Reopening Schools Plan is located on its website: https://www.wwps.org/safely-reopening-schools