District sets date for middle school return to in-person learning
Following nearly a one-year break from in-person learning amidst the COVID pandemic, middle school students will begin returning to campuses Tuesday, Feb. 16 utilizing the AM/PM hybrid model.
A steady decline in local COVID cases over the past six weeks according to data provided by the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health allowed the district to shift to the yellow stage of its reopening plan. Sixth grade students will be on campuses first, beginning Feb. 16, with 7th and 8th grade students returning Thursday, Feb. 18.
“This phased approach will allow our sixth grade students to have two days on campus without upper grade level students to get orientated to their new schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “For many of these students, it will be their first time in our middle schools.”
Based on guidance released by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health, schools are encouraged to reopen for middle school instruction when cases drop below 350 cases per one hundred thousand population over 14 days. That ratio, when applied to the Walla Walla and College Place communities, equates to approximately 200 new cases over a two-week period, the same threshold the Walla Walla School Board and Walla Walla Valley Education Association agreed on to begin returning middle school students back to campus. As of Feb. 1, combined case counts between the two jurisdictions were at the 200 mark.
"This week the district will perform its 3rd party on-site safety audit at each middle school site, address specific staff safety accommodations necessary and begin to communicate safety protocols and schedules to our families," said Superintendent Smith. “We are excited to welcome our middle school students safely back on campus and appreciate the community for helping curb the spread of the virus by wearing masks, social distancing and limiting gatherings.”
The district will continue to monitor COVID cases closely and work with local health officials as it eyes returning high school students to campus once state recommended targets are met. To learn more about the district’s Safely Reopening Plans, please visit www.wwps.org.