Last week parents and schools received two pieces of good news: the state Department of Health announced the expansion of the Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for youth aged 12 to 17, and Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state will be sending one million COVID tests kits and additional face masks to schools to meet increased needs.
It may take a couple of weeks to deliver on Inslee’s promise to get the tests, but COVID boosters are available now.
Jenn Markaryan, communications officer with the North Kitsap School District, said the district appreciates the increase in tests and masks to support schools. She also said it is glad the booster shots were approved.
”We encourage families to continue getting their children vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible,” Markaryan said.
In support of Inslee’s priority to keep schools open, NKSD superintendent Laurynn Evans says in a community newsletter that the district will “continue to focus on providing in-person learning for all of our students, as we know that being in-person is important for student academic and social-emotional well-being.”
Evans did forewarn the community to prepare for temporary classroom or school closures and that the district may have to pause in-person instruction, depending on COVID numbers.
In meetings with regional superintendents, state-level health experts and the Kitsap Public Health Department, Evans said school leaders were advised to prepare for high rates of transmission that might temporarily impact the ability to provide in-person instruction.
“I want to ensure our community is aware of this potential situation so that students and families can be prepared,” Evans said, explaining that the district would temporarily transition to remote learning if there were insufficient staff or if directed by the KPHD or state health authorities.
If a high number of staff is impacted by COVID, and the district is unable to safely operate a classroom or school, it will be closed temporarily, and students will transition to short-term, online learning.
NKSD is monitoring staff absences daily and has enacted multifaceted contingency plans to prevent a classroom or school closure from occurring. However, Evans cautioned, “We have been warned that staff absenteeism could reach a point where we simply do not have sufficient staff to operate a school.”
All families and staff will be notified in the same manner as inclement weather alerts. Students are reminded to bring home their devices daily, and families are encouraged to check their email, phone messages and the district website before sending students to school.
Evans concluded by recognizing the efforts of numerous staff who worked nonstop through the winter break to ensure schools remain open. “Please help us keep students in school by continuing to follow all of the mitigation measures outlined by health officials.”