First group of middle and high school students returned to school on January 6

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The first group of Blaine middle school students and high school freshman returned to the classroom January 6, after superintendent Christopher Granger announced grades 6-12 students would start hybrid learning after winter break. With grades 10-12 returning Monday, January 11, all grade levels will be on a hybrid-learning schedule next week.

“I think it’s great, anytime we can get students learning face-to-face with instructors,” Granger said about getting students back into the classroom.

The decision to get students back into the classroom followed the release of new Covid-19 recommendations from the governor’s office for the safe re-opening of schools.

The school district will continue to follow Covid-19 protocols proven to work with grades K-5, Granger said. All elementary school students have been on a hybrid-learning schedule since November 23.

While the Blaine school district has not had a positive Covid-19 case in schools yet, Granger stressed in a January 4 community Q&A the importance of students and their families cooperating with tracing transmission if Covid-19 is present in schools. The school district will conduct its own contact tracing with the help of the county health department when a positive case arises.

The new metrics announced by governor Jay Inslee and superintendent of public instruction Chris Reykdal along with guidance from the Washington State Department of Health are based off recent data that shows limited Covid-19 transmission in school environments when state and health safety protocols are
implemented.

“State, national and international research conducted on schools that are providing in-person learning has shown that, for the most part, schools are not centers of transmission for COVID-19 infections, and detected transmission within schools tends to occur only on a limited basis if schools implement rigorous health and safety protocols,” the governor’s proclamation states.

The research presented in a new decision making “tool kit” with revised metrics by the department of health recommends school districts start phasing in middle and high school students when county case rates are below 200 cases per 100,000 people for the past two weeks.

As of January 4, Whatcom County had a two-week case rate of 161.1 per 100,000.

If the case rate goes above 200, Granger said students would continue hybrid learning while the school district communicates with the county health
department.

“Those are not hard numbers,” Granger said about the department of health’s guidance.

The school district has daily health screenings for all students, which can be completed in Skyward, a K-12 student information system, along with physical distancing and mask wearing protocols. Meal times have also been cut out of the schedule in order to limit times when it is necessary for students to remove their masks.

Granger asked students who feel ill to stay home and communicate with their teachers and school office so they can be included in online learning for days when they are scheduled to be in the classroom.

Students who have requested to return to in-person learning should receive an email by Monday, January 13, Granger said. All students who sent in a request by the December 10 deadline will return to hybrid learning in the second semester beginning January 25, but the school district is still working on assigning groups for those students, which is why they weren’t notified by January 4.

Students who moved to online-only that are returning to hybrid learning may receive a different group assignment, but Granger said the district is working to get students back into their previous group assignments.

Bus routes have been modified to account for additional students who will be returning to in-person learning.

Granger said the school district has recalled the majority of staff that was furloughed in August and later laid off on November 1. All bus drivers and classroom support staff that were available have been brought back except for two remaining positions. Both individuals have been contacted, he said. These positions were not brought back because of hybrid and remote learning. Granger said the school district would work to incorporate those individuals into its plans for next school year.

No meals will be provided during school. Meals can be picked up every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. in the parking lot behind the grandstands. For those in Point Roberts, email Amber Porter at aporter@blainesd.org to be added to list of meals that will be delivered to the Point.

As for extracurricular activities and sports, Granger said he is expecting new guidance from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association by the end of the week.

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