The Kent School District will be one of the first districts in the state to welcome students back to class for in-person learning on Thursday, Aug. 26, with many other schools opening soon as well.
The start of the school year is aligning with another surge in COVID-19 infections, and it’s bringing renewed uncertainty for families in back-to-school mode.
Dr. Amanda Kost hears the concerns of many of these families firsthand as the clinical director of the Family Medicine Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Her advice: Expect the unexpected.
“Being prepared for knowing that you don’t know what’s going to happen is helpful,” Kost said. “That’s going to be the conversation I’m going to have with my kids.”
Her pep talk focuses on all that students have already overcome.
“You have proven that you were able to do it last year,” she says to her children. “I have confidence that you can do it this year.”
Washington state’s current plan requires all schools to offer in-person learning for the coming school year while also mandating masks for all teachers, staff and students – regardless of vaccination status.
Recent studies suggest kids may be the best age group to wear masks consistently.
“When I say kids are cool with masks, the data backs it up,” Kost said. “I do think that it’s important for parents to know that, especially for kids that are under the age of 12 that can’t be vaccinated, the mask is really our best line of defense against their kids getting sick – and against their kids potentially spreading COVID to other people, even if they don’t get sick or have symptoms.”
Here are several steps the Kent School District is taking, in alignment with state Department of Health guidance:
• All school personnel, volunteers, visitors, and students must wear cloth face coverings, or an acceptable alternative (e.g., surgical mask or clear face shield with a drape), at school when indoors in accordance with the Governor’s Mask Order.
• Staff should maintain 6-foot distancing to the extent possible.
• In the classroom, 3-foot physical distancing is recommended between students as space allows. When unable to maintain 3-foot distancing, students will need to be facing the same direction.
• At lunch, when students have their masks removed, all schools will maximize the distance between students and seat students facing the same direction to the degree possible.
• In hallways, schools will continue to support physical distancing. The goal is to reduce large groups of students and close contact.