SRHD Supports Phasing in of Secondary Schools

SRHD Supports Phasing in of Secondary Schools

Jan 08, 2021

Media Contact: Kelli Hawkins | | (509) 324-1539, c (509) 994-8968

Spokane, Wash. – Interim Spokane Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez announced today his support for Spokane County school districts to allow the methodical phasing in of secondary schools for in-person learning.

Velazquez explained public, private and parochial schools in Spokane County have been working closely with Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) to develop plans for the eventual return of all students to in-person learning.

“We’re watching the data closely and have specific expectations of the school districts within our guidance. The intent of these expectations is to assure the community of the school district’s ability to safely manage the additional student body while maintaining pandemic health measures,” Velazquez explained. “We feel confident in the plans these school districts have developed.”

Velazquez outlined three key reasons for this decision:

  • Schools districts have a year of experience developing, implementing, and evaluating measures to keep students, staff and families safe while conducting in-person learning. These tested processes and procedures can be carried forth with further phasing in.
  • With COVID-19 vaccination efforts under way, we expect to see COVID-19 metrics for our community improve. Health officials believe vaccinations of faculty and staff will have a positive impact.
  • In-person learning addresses needs for social and emotional learning and skill development, concerns of child safety, and academic inequities among those with limited access to technology – all needs that regular interaction with school employees identify.

“The school districts have done a good job of taking the appropriate measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their schools,” Velazquez said. “The district-level data supports this, and combined with the vaccination efforts now taking place in our community, the risks of keeping our children away from school far outweighs the risks of in-person learning. However, we still must remain vigilant to following the health measures in place and keeping an eye on the transmission data at the school district level as well as throughout our community.”

Once completed, the recommended criteria for further phasing in of secondary schools will include, but may not be limited to, case data evaluation at the district level, ability to maintain contact tracing with a larger student body, a minimum of two-week evaluation periods in-between the phasing in of each grade, and appropriate resources to keep up cleaning and sanitizing requirements. Schools must also be prepared to pause phasing in additional grades at any time if data supports that need.

In addition, SRHD is making additional tools and resources available to the school districts in order to streamline the evaluation process and ensure all school districts receive the same guidance at the same time. The role of health officials is to provide guidance and support equitably and efficiently so that school districts can develop safe plans and procedures. It is not SRHD’s role to implement or approve those plans.

“The collective responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 remains,” Velazquez said. “If we want to move forward with in-person learning, we all need to work together by following the health measures and by receiving the vaccine when it’s available to you.”