District continues to await guidance from state health officials on CDC social distancing change
Local planning ramps up for expanded in-person learning should state implement 3’ guideline
Last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) modified its operational recommendations for schools by revising physical distancing guidelines to reflect at least 3 feet between students in classrooms rather than the previous 6ft standard.
Walla Walla Public Schools, like school districts across the state, has not received any communication from the Washington Department of Health or Governor Inslee’s office stating this adjustment to the social distancing standard will take effect in Washington schools. Meanwhile, Walla Walla Public Schools has begun working with staff towards identifying obstacles and developing plans to transition to the District’s Blue Stage, returning students to in-person learning, should Washington State accept the CDC’s 3’ social distancing guideline.
“We are certainly excited about the potential for getting back to full day, in-person school,” said School Board President Derek Sarley. “But, we want to be thoughtful and have all of our plans in place to ensure we keep our students, staff and community safe.”
Walla Walla Public Schools has been successful implementing COVID safety protocols across the district since returning students to in-person learning in January on an AM/PM hybrid schedule. Strict adherence of the safety measures by staff and students has kept district schools safe. Community transmission rates also remain extremely low and continue to trend downward. Additionally, vaccination opportunities for staff and the district’s COVID testing capabilities have provided additional layers of protection and prevention. In addition to onsite rapid and PCR COVID testing, all school staff will have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated by the end of this month.
“It’s not quite as easy as just going back to normal,” said Sarley. “While the reduction from 6’ to 3 feet provides the ability for more students in classroom settings, some accommodations will still be necessary to examine prior to any adjustment. For example, some classrooms are still unable to accommodate all students even at 3 feet distances. Additionally, the CDC still recommends a 6-foot separation for students while eating and between adults and students while in the classroom. Further guidance regarding busing capacity may also be necessary to accommodate additional ridership.”