Aberdeen, Hoquiam schools adjust to rising COVID cases

Hoquiam High School and middle school students returned to online learning on Monday after 35 positive COVID-19 cases were identified last week.

The Aberdeen School District is having its own challenges with staff absences and the quarantine of two classrooms at McDermoth Elementary School.

“This is about slowing down the virus and still trying to keep our kids in school,” said Hoquiam Superintendent Mike Villarreal.

A statement released Friday, Sept. 17, said along with the 35 cases, the Hoquiam School District is tracing 300 close contacts, some of which are experiencing symptoms and awaiting rest results.

“This decision was not made lightly; many factors were considered, and mitigation steps have been implemented,” read the statement. “At this time, this is the best option to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and keep everyone safe, which is our top priority.”

The high and middle schools are the only schools impacted by the current shift to online learning. Students are expected to return to campus on Oct. 4. The facilities closures at the high school and middle schools include the suspension of all in-person participation in sports and extracurricular activities, as well as “before and after school programs that have been immediately touched by the COVID-19 virus.”

The district in conjunction with the county health department will monitor the situation and “make adjustments if needed to shorten or extend the remote learning.”

Over the weekend, the Aberdeen School District announced that two classrooms at McDermoth Elementary were quarantined. A statement from the district said “The health department closes a class when there are two confirmed cases of COVID.”

“Our district staff has been working very hard since school opened to maintain a safe learning environment,” read a district statement. “It’s an enormous task as we are seeing an increase in the numbers of positive cases.”

All of the schools in the district have “experienced COVID,” read the statement, and the district is urging parents to closely monitor their children and keep them home if they are experiencing any symptoms.

It also stressed the continued importance of masking and distancing: “Maintaining proper distance and proper mask wearing at school will play a large role in our ability to manage the level of transmission.”

The increase in cases district-wide has led to both student and staff absences, a challenge Superintendent Alicia Henderson called “inordinate.”

“Our focus continues to be filling absences as needed while ensuring that we have enough staff to safely operate our schools,” said Henderson.

“Everyone is doing their part and I know all of the hard work is appreciated by our community.”