WENATCHEE — Some students may be able to start returning to Wenatchee-area schools by mid-October.
The Chelan-Douglas Health District notified the Wenatchee School District that based on the declining rate of COVID-19 cases, it should start planning for hybrid learning — a mix of remote and in-class learning, according to a news release from the school district.
The health district reported that the rate of positive cases is at about 116 people per a 100,000 population over a two-week period.
Schools will be able to start shifting to hybrid learning when numbers reach between 25 to 75 people per 100,000 over a two-week period, said Diana Haglund, Wenatchee School District spokesperson.
The Wenatchee School District plans to announce the start date for its hybrid learning on Oct. 12, if it qualifies, according to the news release.
The Wenatchee School District's preschool through second-grade classes would be the first to return to schools, with other grades being phased in gradually, according to the news release.
To help move schools toward reopening, the school district and health district will be conducting testing to get statistical data on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, according to the news release.
The health district plans to do a community-wide test and a separate specific test on kindergarten through second-grade families and staff, Haglund said. The school district will be contacting the kindergarten and second-grade families and telling them where to go for testing, starting on Monday.
“It helps us say that, ‘OK, we feel very confident that not only are the rates in the community low, but also this population of kids is really low,’” Haglund said. “And if it is not really low and it is not in the range that the Chelan-Douglas Health District wants it to be in then we’re not going to bring back kids.”
Eastmont School District offered campus areas for testing to the Chelan-Douglas Health District, but they have not confirmed dates, Eastmont Superintendent Garn Christensen said. People are being referred to the Wenatchee sites at this point.
The school district is still developing plans for what to do if an outbreak does occur once students have returned, she said. It would really depend, though, on the circumstance of any positive cases.
“I hate to say that it really depends, but it does really depend on the exposure,” Haglund said. “Whether or not a student was, you know, six-feet away or mitigation strategies were in place.”
When schools reopen, the district is planning to offer testing to its staff on a continuous basis, but it would be voluntary, she said.
In order for the testing to be effective, all the members 365 households will need to be tested, Chelan-Douglas Health Officer Dr. Malcolm Butler said Friday. In addition, 400 kindergarten through second-grade Wenatchee School District staff will be tested.
In September, the health district considered testing 10,000 people in the Wenatchee Valley and then 800 people per school district.