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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

School COVID-19 numbers a mixed bag as Spokane district prepares for more in-person learning

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 4, 2020

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street. (JESSE TINSLEY)

Despite the tumult at the Spokane Regional Health District and an uptick in positive COVID-19 tests in many schools, Spokane Public Schools is poised to take the next step in its reopening plan by bringing more students back to buildings.

During a board meeting Wednesday night, Superintendent Adam Swinyard and staff solidified plans to bring first-graders back for in-person learning beginning on Monday.

That much had already been approved, but the district also shared plans to phase in second-graders beginning Nov. 30.

As it did for kindergartners, the district will employ an eight-day phase-in for the next two grade levels.

Those plans aren’t affected by the controversy surrounding Dr. Bob Lutz, whose status at the health district is still unclear.

However, according to Swinyard, schools continue to receive guidance from Mark Springer, the health district’s epidemiologist.

“We’ve had a very strong working relationship with Dr. Lutz and are eagerly awaiting clarity from the leadership at the health district,” Swinyard said.

The school district has seen fairly consistent COVID numbers in recent days. On Friday, the district’s weekly dashboard showed 16 current positive cases district-wide with 115 people in quarantine.

Wednesday’s presentation showed 47 positive cases and 250 in quarantine; however, those numbers cover the last 4 weeks.

Swinyard pointed out that since the school year began on Sept. 14, only one case of coronavirus has originated inside a school building.

“That continues to be a key data point,” Swinyard said.

To prepare for next week’s influx of first-graders, the district has held a series of webinars addressing logistics, health and safety, and materials and instruction.

“At this point, the implement will look similar to kindergarten,” Swinyard said.

Meanwhile, the Central Valley School District has experienced higher COVID numbers.

As of Wednesday, the district had 16 positive cases during the last 14 days and 116 people in quarantine – a slight drop from Monday but sharply higher from last week.

Like Spokane, CVSD is moving gradually from distance learning to in-person learning.

“Without getting into case specifics in order to protect individuals, the numbers reported on our dashboard currently do not alter our plans,” said Marla Nunberg, the district’s director of communications.

“We have only had four kindergarten through first grade students test positive with COVID up to this date out of over 1,600 K-1 in-person students–and none of these cases are a result of a spread in the school,” Nunberg said.

Meanwhile, the Mead School District, which began the year with in-person learning for elementary students and a hybrid model for upper grades, has seen a decline this week. As of Wednesday, the district reported 14 positive tests in the last 14 days and 135 people in quarantine.

In Idaho, Post Falls saw a sharp drop from last week, from 22 positive cases and 222 people in quarantine to 16 and 73, respectively.

However, neighboring Lakeland, which has used a full-time in-person model with face coverings optional, has experienced 52 positive tests since the school year began. That is up from 41 last week.

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