After Washington's indoor mask mandate expired in March, masking became optional for students in local schools. Washington's Department of Health released new guidance for K-12 schools, though students will likely not notice a difference from the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
WENATCHEE — Washington’s Department of Health has released new COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools and childcare centers. However, students in the Wenatchee Valley likely will not notice a significant difference when they return later this month.
Under the new guidelines and recommendations, students and staff who test positive for the virus will be required to isolate themselves at home for five days. Following the five days, students and staff can return to the classroom, though they should wear a properly-fitted mask and test before returning to school.
According to the guidance, schools will not be required to “directly notify” individuals at high risk of exposure, though they “must continue to have a process in place to inform students, staff and families of cases and outbreaks.”
The Department of Health has also released a flow chart to help determine a course of action if a person develops COVID symptoms.
Schools will also need to report outbreaks of three or more cases in a specific group to local health jurisdictions. The state department of health previously reported more than 1,500 COVID-19 outbreaks tied to schools, including two in Douglas County and one in Chelan County, during the 2021-2022 school year.
“We are entering a new stage of coexisting with COVID-19 in our communities, knowing that COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future,” said state Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah in a press release. “DOH also recognizes the importance of being able to maintain in-person learning for children, and the fundamental links between education and long-term health outcomes.”
In April, the DOH opted not to require the COVID-19 vaccine for students, though members still encourage children to get vaccinated.
In Wenatchee, spokesperson Diana Haglund said the district does not “any major shifts in COVID mitigation practices and procedures from last year.”
Haglund also said should the need arise for the district to temporarily shift an individual class or a school to remote learning, the district’s 1-1 device to student ratio and teacher experience make the move possible when necessary.
The same is true over in Eastmont, where Superintendent Becky Berg said the district would start the school year in about the same place as the end of last year.
“We are taking the same precautions as before with vigilant cleaning procedures and isolating if symptomatic,” Berg wrote in an email.
Eastmont students will return to the classroom on Aug. 24, while Wenatchee students will return on Aug. 30.
“We are so excited to see our families and students again this fall, and hope that everyone is happy and healthy and ready to start school,” she wrote.
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