Grays Harbor County school districts should plan to stick with off-site distance learning methods “for an extended period of time,” according to County Health Officer Dr. John Bausher.
In a letter to school officials dated Monday, Bausher cited the current surge in cases and state guidelines as reasons for districts to prepare for extended online learning.
While some data is pending, “with the number of cases that we have had in the last week in September, our case rate will be around six times higher than the state goal which is 25 cases/100,000 population over 14 days.”
Bausher said currently Grays Harbor’s case rate is in the “high COVID-19 activity level,” more than 75 cases per 100,000 over a two-week span.
“Due to the magnitude of Grays Harbor County’s current case rate all K-12 schools should prepare to implement the educational and extracurricular modalities associated with the high COVID-19 activity level for an extended period of time,” read Bausher’s letter.
Further, Bausher said school districts should not consider the resumption of on-site learning and restarting extracurricular activities until “Grays Harbor County’s case rate shows a downward epidemiological trend for four consecutive weeks.”
Bausher recommended all K-12 schools follow the guidance listed in Washington Department of Health’s Decision Tree with regard to educational modality and extracurricular activities. The Decision Tree is a five-page document detailing numerous recommendations that must be met before any in-person school activity can resume.
To see all the recommendations offered by the state for school re-opening, go to https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/ResourcesandRecommendations and click on the “Schools and Childcare” tab.
County Commissioner Wes Cormier spoke out on the issue on his Facebook page Monday.
“As a member of the Board of Health (the three county commissioners also make up the members of the Board of Health), I fully support children going back to school effective immediately,” said Cormier. “If you are a parent and want your child to go back to school in-person, he or she should be able to go. If you are not comfortable sending your child to school, keep them home and take advantage of distance learning.”
In his letter to school leadership, Bausher again talked about the basics of social distancing, mask wearing and hygiene as important steps to a return to on-site learning.
“If we all follow these practices, we can disrupt the current community spread of COVID-19, at which time schools may be able to increase in-person activities,” Bausher said.