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News >  K-12 education

Spokane-area school districts are seeing more COVID-19 quarantines and cases after returning

UPDATED: Tue., March 30, 2021

About three-dozen parents and students protested Central Valley School District’s in-person learning plan on Jan. 19 on the sidewalk in front of Central Valley High School during the “March for More” rally.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
About three-dozen parents and students protested Central Valley School District’s in-person learning plan on Jan. 19 on the sidewalk in front of Central Valley High School during the “March for More” rally. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

School districts are all over the map in the war against COVID-19.

While Central Valley is poised to bring students to classrooms full time after spring break, Reardan-Edwall is sending everyone home in the wake of a fresh outbreak.

Meanwhile, Spokane Public Schools is reporting an increase in student quarantines following the return of all grades to in-person learning.

However, the district has seen a “dramatic decrease” in positive cases and quarantines among staff, said Becky Doughty, the district’s health director.

That wasn’t surprising following the influx of students, she added.

The district has reported no positive cases linked to in-school transmission in the last week and only 10 since mid-October.

The district also is making progress on vaccines, with between 2,500 and 3,000 doses administered so far to staff, school staff and community members, Doughty said.

With spring break around the corner, families are encouraged to wear masks and eliminate non-essential travel, even if fully vaccinated.

“What we don’t want to see is a spike in cases after spring break, and we don’t want to lose the ground we have gained,” Doughty said.

The most encouraging news came from Central Valley, where on Monday night the school board voted to provide in-person learning for all students who choose it, beginning April 12.

“This gives our kids some consistency for the longer term, and a better learning environment,” Superintendent Ben Small said Tuesday.

“Our staff has been supportive as we have made all these moves, because they want to make sure we’ve done everything right,” Small said.

Currently, secondary students are attending on a hybrid schedule, alternating in-person and virtual lessons.

The district also is moving to 3-foot distancing guidelines approved earlier this month by Gov. Jay Inslee, but will maintain 6-foot spacing in lunchrooms, gyms and vocal music classes.

That comes on top of the good news sent to high school seniors, who will be allowed to graduate in outdoor ceremonies.

The new guidance covers all four of the district’s high schools: Central Valley, University, Mica Peak and Spokane Valley Tech. Attendance will be limited to family and friends, with masks required.

“All ceremonies are subject to changes due to the spread of COVID-19 in Spokane County and planning will be adjusted to help ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and families,” the district said in a statement.

Spokane Public Schools expects to begin work on graduation details following spring break, district spokesperson Sandra Jarrard said.

Overall, COVID-19 metrics are up slightly since most districts stepped up the pace of returning students.

On Friday, Spokane Public Schools reported 202 students and staff under quarantine. That’s up from 116 from mid-February, but holding steady from numbers reported in the previous three weeks.

Central Valley also reported an increase: 18 confirmed cases from the previous two weeks, with 60 people quarantined, 11 of them from internal contact.

Also on Tuesday, Mead had 24 positive cases and 14 close contacts in the previous two weeks.

West Valley reported nine new cases and eight quarantines, while Cheney had five and 20, respectively.

However, the 700-student Reardan-Edwall district is reeling from a COVID-19 spike, with 13 students and two staff testing positive in recent days.

The district responded on Monday by moving 5th- through 12-graders to remote learning only. On Tuesday, all students were sent home.

Reardan-Edwall, which straddles the border between Spokane and Lincoln counties, has held in-person lessons all year, but was largely COVID-free until now.

“We haven’t seen anything at this level all year,” Superintendent Eric Sobotta said Tuesday. “Why now? I don’t know.”

Sobotta added that as of Tuesday, the district was unable to determine whether any transmission occurred in school buildings.

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