Decisions about how to effectively teach students while keeping them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic are difficult to make. Public health experts and schools in our community and across the country are weighing these decisions carefully.
Whatcom County Health Department Recommends Starting the School Year Remotely
On Tuesday August 4, 2020, Dr. Greg Stern, Health Officer for the Whatcom County Health Department, has recommended to Whatcom County public school superintendents and private school administrators that they plan for remote learning for the start of the school year.
“I do not feel it is safe to open schools in September for traditional classroom learning,” says Dr. Stern. “I expect that our current infection rate and its ongoing increase will not slow or reverse enough to allow for safe operations this fall. Given this, and the lead time needed to prepare for school operations, I strongly recommend schools prepare for remote learning to start the school year.”
There are several considerations when deciding about the upcoming school year.
- Case counts in Whatcom County are still rising, and community spread is continuing to grow.
- Spread of COVID-19 within schools may amplify transmission in the community. Students who go to school could become infected, bringing the virus into their home and potentially infecting family members or other people in their social circles.
- While most school-age children are less likely than adults to have severe illness, some staff and students are particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness because of their age or underlying medical conditions. Even otherwise healthy staff and students can have serious and long-lasting complications from a COVID-19 infection.
What You Can Do
We all want to see children back in schools with their teachers and peers. The only way we can make that happen is with every community member committing to slowing the spread of COVID-19. We all can take steps to create an environment that allows for schools to reopen for on-site learning.
- Wear a face cover in public and any time you can’t keep six feet away from people you don’t live with.
- Keep at least six feet of distance from non-household members.
- Avoid getting together in groups of more than five people from outside of your household.
- Stay home and get tested if you are feeling sick.
Our Schools Are Working to Keep Kids Safe and Learning
We want to acknowledge and thank all of the staff at our local schools who have been working tirelessly over the summer to plan for school reopening in the fall. This has been an unsure time for all of us, and teachers, school staff, and administrators have been demonstrating their commitment to every child’s well-being throughout this pandemic. We know that teachers want to be in their classrooms with their students, and we as a community are committed to help make that happen.
As we have experienced from the beginning, what we know about the COVID-19 pandemic is frequently changing as we learn more and adapt. We will continue to work with our local schools in the coming weeks and months as they make plans to serve students and families and adapt to this ever-evolving situation.