Buoyed by lower COVID-19 metrics, Spokane Public Schools is continuing to move forward on its reopening plans.
In the short term, that means bringing 5th- and 6th-graders back to in-person learning beginning Wednesday, with secondary students starting March 1.
During last week’s board meeting, everyone was reminded that the March 1 date is tentative and that the reopening plan is “based on the commitment to follow the guidance and direction of public health officials.”
However, that timeline gained more traction Friday, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered additional guidelines that allow schools to openly safely if they employ layered mitigation measures.
The CDC said that middle- and high-school students can attend school safely at most lower levels of community transmission – or even at higher levels, provided schools employ weekly testing of staff and students to identify asymptomatic infections.
“CDC’s operational strategy is grounded in science and the best available evidence,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said on Friday in a call with reporters.
Spokane already is following those strategies, including rigid cleaning protocols, a health attestation process and enforcement of social distancing.
“We have learned a lot from other school districts about how to bring kids back,” Superintendent Adam Swinyard said this week.
Other preventive measures the CDC recommended for schools are those it has previously endorsed, including universal mask wearing for staff members and students, hand-washing and hygiene, and contact tracing, in combination with isolation for those who have tested positive and quarantine for those who have been exposed to the virus.
While children do not appear to be at a higher risk for COVID-19 than adults, families must also do their part, the CDC reiterated this week.
The CDC offered these tips for parents:
- Explain that masks help prevent germs from spreading to others when performing actions like talking, coughing, sneezing or singing;
- Emphasize that wearing masks is a safety practice that will help keep your family and community healthy;
- Remind your child that teachers, staff and other students will be following the same guidance;
- If you don’t already have masks that are the right fit for your children, be sure to pick some up that have multiple layers, adjustable ear straps and are targeted toward your child’s age;
- Be sure to encourage your children to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, including washing their hands and face once home at the end of the school day.
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