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News >  K-12 education

School districts staying the course despite COVID-19 worries

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 31, 2021


Despite rising COVID-19 metrics, school districts in Spokane County and most of the rest of the state are committed to in-person learning when classes resume on Monday.

The county’s three largest districts, Spokane, Central Valley and Mead, all have reaffirmed their intent to provide in-person instruction.

“SPS will be providing in-person instruction,” a Spokane Public Schools spokesperson stated in an email Thursday. Mead and CV sent similar one-sentence replies.

None of the districts shared any contingency plans should numbers spike as students and staff return Monday from a two-week holiday break.

The affirmation comes as an omicron-fueled surge that is sending COVID-19 cases rocketing in the U.S. Children are in the hospital in close to record numbers, and experts lament that most of the youngsters are not vaccinated.

During the week of Dec. 21-27, an average of 334 children 17 and under per day were admitted to hospitals nationwide with the coronavirus, a 58% increase from the week before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We fear that it’s going to get a lot worse, between getting together for the holidays and then getting back to school,” Dr. Stanley Spinner, chief medical officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics & Texas Children’s Urgent Care in Houston, told CNN.

Other experts stress the importance of keeping children in classrooms.

Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said it’s important for kids to be able to stay in classrooms – and not just for their academic health.

There are so many advantages to on-site learning. Children need the socialization that comes with being in school,” Offit said in the same CNN report.

At the same time, some regional universities are taking a cautious approach to the new variant.

Students who were about to start classes at Whitworth University’s January term will be logging on instead of going in person.

Earlier this week, Whitworth said that most on-campus classes would be held online Jan. 3-9 because of COVID-19. Eleven classes that include labs and activities will be in person. All regular campus services will be open as usual including residence halls, dining services and computer labs.

Earlier in the week, Seattle Pacific University opted to temporarily shift to remote learning. The school will start its Winter Quarter remotely, with all classes taking place online from Jan. 3-7.

Seattle Public Schools, the state’s largest district, said will maintain its plan to reopen in person following winter break, although families are being advised to “prepare for the possibility” of moving to remote learning should data significantly change. Classes are canceled on Monday in order for the district to test all staff and students.

The U.S. Department of Education is urging school districts to take safety precautions and ensure classrooms are open for in-person learning.

Nationally, children continue to represent a small percentage of those being hospitalized with COVID-19. Also, many doctors say the youngsters coming in now seem less sick than those seen during the delta surge over the summer.

Two months after vaccinations were approved for 5- to 11-year-olds, about 14% are fully protected, CDC data shows. The rate is higher for 12- to 17-year-olds, at about 53%.

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