Since its plans align closely with Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the North Kitsap School District continues to prepare to return students to in-person learning in January.
NKSD students in grades pre-kindergarten through second grade will return Jan. 11. Inslee and state Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced last week their expectations for the state’s schools to reopen, sharing updated guidance and metrics.
“There is risk in returning to campuses, but we are confident now that the risks will be mitigated as long as there is adherence to health and safety measures, like wearing masks, maintaining six feet of physical distance, increased cleaning and improved ventilation,” Inslee said.
Schools in districts have been closed since March, and it was previously recommended that districts remain in remote learning if their county had an infection rate of 75 positive tests per 100,000 cases. As of Dec. 21, Kitsap County was at 212 cases per 100,000. North Kitsap has had a total of 600 positive cases with 17 recently, according to the Kitsap Public Health District.
But the new lower standards allow for elementary and middle schools to open in places where cases are between 50 and 350 per 100,000, making NKSD eligible to reopen.
While Inslee has the authority to close schools, the decision to reopen and how they go about it is up to the districts. NKSD is continuing with its phased approach to reopening, superintendent Laurynn Evans said.
“In accordance with state guidance, we will follow a phased approach as we bring back students for in-person learning. We will start by having our youngest learners back on campus in our hybrid half-day model…We will continue to add additional grades slowly over time in the following weeks and months,” she said.
In districts where the case count is above 350 per 100,000, elementary school students can return to in-person learning as long as class sizes are 15 or less. All students may return to in-person learning when case counts are at or below 50 per 100,000.
Many of NKSD’s school buildings had ventilation replaced and upgraded over the summer. Classrooms also were reconfigured to allow for social distancing and routine cleaning and sanitizing.
Secondary school students will most likely not return until after the end of the semester in February or March, while special education students have been in school since November in a limited capacity.