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Young students may have option to attend school inside classrooms in near future

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The Snohomish Health District released an update Thursday, Sept. 10 stating that elementary students could possibly be back in classrooms by the end of the month.
A moderate decline in COVID-19 transmission within the county has given the health district an opportunity to update their recommendations regarding public and private schools. 
After a peak in cases in late July, newly reported case numbers have remained in continuous decline over the last five weeks.
“A reasonable next step is for schools to begin planning for how to expand in-person learning to elementary school students, as well as to any high needs students in any grade level not already receiving in-person services. This does not mean schools should immediately go to full, in-person attendance in all elementary school settings,” county health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said in a health district news release.
The news release also states schools have been asked to wait for at least three weeks to allow observation following both the Labor Day holiday and the re-opening of schools in their current configuration.
If the new case numbers in the county remain stable or continue to decrease, then schools can proceed with incrementally bringing elementary school students back for in-person learning, the health district said.
The health district recommends bringing elementary students back first because they are facing the greatest challenge with remote learning. Teenage students appear to face fewer challenges in a remote learning model according to the health district. The health district also states teenage students, being middle and high school, have a higher rate of COVID-19 and a greater chance of transmission if infected. 
“If elementary school students are able to return to in-person learning in a safe and stable manner, maintaining similar or better COVID-19 circumstances overall, then the health district will update these recommendations to address in-person learning for middle and high school students,” as stated by the news release. 
Snohomish School District Superintendent Kent Kultgen released a letter to families and staff on Friday, Sept. 11.
“The Snohomish School District is actively planning for the possible return of students for in-person instruction. As stated (in) Dr. Spitters’ summary, we have to wait at least three weeks after Labor Day and when we start, we will do so with our younger learners,” said Kultgen in the letter. “As a district we will be flexible and nimble as we engage with each child. There will be bumps in the road, but I am confident that as a community we will overcome and meet the needs of each of our students.”
What this looks like and the timeline for implementation is yet to be determined but the district will continue to update families as they move forward, Kultgen said.
Per the health district’s request, all extracurricular in-person activities should remain suspended until all students have had the opportunity to attend schools in-person and if the county guidelines permits such activities.
“It is inevitable that cases will occur in students and school staff as we bring more people together, but a case is not a failure on the school or district. We all must be prepared and ready to respond in a coordinated and sustainable fashion,” Dr. Spitters said in the news release.
The health district recommended schools should wait three weeks following the return of elementary students before allowing middle and high school students back on campus. During that time the health district can acknowledge case trends and determine the safety for teenage students.



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