Additional public school districts throughout the Yakima Valley are creating new timelines for returning students to campus following the Yakima Health District’s OK of a gradual return to in-person learning.
On Monday, the health district said K-5 students can return to campus full-time as early as Oct. 12 due to improvements in community COVID-19 rates. Students in grades 6-8 can return part-time as early as Nov. 2, while grades 9-12 can resume part-time three weeks after middle school students’ return, or as early as Nov. 23. The outline depends on stable daily case counts and hospitalization rates.
All schools are required to provide a remote learning alternative, and must follow health recommendations such as grouping students into cohorts, requiring masks, social distancing and screening students each day.
Yakima County has not met the threshold of new cases over a two-week period suggested by the state for students to resume in-person learning. But the Yakima Health District said Monday that metrics have greatly improved since August, when it discouraged in-person learning. It also said contact tracing would be possible in the school setting and that the benefit of returning to school in-person is especially great for the Yakima community.
Several districts have begun outlining plans for in-person learning, to be approved by the health district.
Mt. Adams School District has board approval to resume in-person learning “as soon as it is safe to resume,” according to Superintendent Curt Guaglianone. The district’s plan takes direction from the Yakima Health District guidelines.
In Grandview, students could return shortly after if things go to plan. The district has proposed that students in grades K-2 begin in-person learning on Oct. 19, with kindergarteners on a regular schedule and students in grades 1-2 in hybrid learning. Fellow elementary school, middle school and high school students would return in a staggered pattern to hybrid learning in following weeks, if approved by the health district.
Hybrid learning involves a combination of virtual instruction and in-person learning.
Selah has announced similar plans to launch hybrid learning, with K-5 students beginning Oct. 19. Granger School District plans to kick off hybrid learning on Nov. 2.
Sunnyside, West Valley, Wapato, East Valley, Zillah and Union Gap school districts are all planning to return to in-person learning but haven’t yet finalized timelines.
Toppenish Superintendent John Cerna said the district is having discussions, but is unlikely to expedite its planned return to campus on Nov. 2.
Similarly, Yakima School District has said it will maintain its plans to finish the first semester of the school year remotely, in part because of confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus since teachers’ return to school buildings for remote teaching.
Officials from Naches Valley, Highland and Mabton school districts could not immediately be reached.
Many districts are seeking parent and community feedback in the process, which could help determine things like timing or student groupings.
Wapato is having virtual town halls on Oct. 1 in English and Spanish to share updates and get feedback from parents. The English session will be from 5:30-6:30 p.m. while the Spanish version will be from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Details can be found at www.wapatosd.org.
West Valley School District is also gathering community and staff feedback on a potential return to campus following health guidelines. A Zoom meeting for staff was held Tuesday afternoon, while a community call will take place from 7-9 p.m. Thursday.