The Kent School District will remain in remote learning through Jan. 28, the first semester for the 2020-2021 school year.
Superintendent Calvin Watts made the announcement Friday, Oct. 16 after consultation with the Kent School Board.
“We made this decision primarily based on the data that the COVID activity rates in the Kent School District community remain higher than King County overall and continue to stay above the maximum level the state Department of Health has set for when schools may safely reopen for in-person learning,” Watts said in a statement.
The state Department of Health considers 75 cases or more over two weeks per 100,000 to be a marker of relatively high risk for in-person learning. In King County, after about six weeks under that threshold, the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 has rebounded into the 80s, according to a Public Health – Seattle & King County report this week. The rate of new cases hit 92 per 100,000 on Oct. 15.
“I know this is not the news many wanted to hear,” Watts said. “Each choice remaining in remote learning or move to hybrid learning presents particular challenges in its own right. Where I believe we can find common ground is the health and safety of all KSD students, staff, and families must remain the driving force behind our decisions during this health crisis.”
Federal Way Public Schools announced Oct. 7 that the district would remain in online learning through December.
Watts hopes that Kent schools can go to hybrid learning at some point in 2021, a mix of students learning remotely and in the classroom.
“When we shift to hybrid learning, it will be another monumental shift for everyone involved,” Watts said. “There is no firm date set for when we will begin slowly bringing students back to campus for in-person learning, starting with elementary students. We will continue to follow the Department of Health guidelines. If COVID rates are at an acceptable level at the beginning of the second semester, we will slowly begin bringing students back according to the DOH decision-making guidelines.”
The decision to wait until Jan. 28 will allow students, staff and families to focus on remote learning, Watts said.
“We will also use this time to continue fine-tuning our hybrid plan, so we are prepared to welcome back students when it is safe to do so.”
Watts knows the pandemic continues to be challenging for all.
“Remaining in remote learning will be difficult for some of our students and families, like everything else about this pandemic,” Watts said. “Please continue reaching out to your school if your student needs support academically or emotionally. We remain committed to reopening our school buildings when it is considered safe for all students and staff by making data-based decisions.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.