School Guidance

Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released updated guidance on returning to in-person learning for K-12 Schools on December 16, 2020. 

The Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic document reflects revised metrics to inform local decisions on in-person learning, and includes revisions to the previous metrics identified by DOH.

These revisions align closely with the guidance that BFHD has been communicating with local schools since August 2020, and are designed to assist local public health and school administrators in making decisions about how to safely return students to in-person learning.

According to state guidance, several factors should be taken into consideration when planning for in-person learning. Those factors include:

  • Local community transmission rates.
  • Ability of schools to implement recommended COVID-19 health and safety measures.
  • Capacity of schools and local public health to monitor and respond to COVID-19 cases and mitigate outbreaks.

The updated guidance also includes information on prioritizing students for in-person learning, depending on whether community COVID-19 activity is low, moderate, or high. As the provision of in-person learning in Benton and Franklin counties has increased, BFHD has not seen significant transmission occurring in schools. Therefore, local schools are able to maintain current levels of in-person learning, regardless of community COVID-19 activity, as long as they continue to demonstrate the ability to limit transmission.

Dr. Person and BFHD staff will continue working closely with schools to provide local guidance on expansion of in-person learning. As stated in the DOH guidance, “The decision to resume or expand in-person learning is complex and requires weighing both risks and benefits to children, staff, their families, and the broader community. With regards to COVID-19, DOH recommends that local leaders consider COVID-19 activity level (i.e., case rates, percent test positivity, trends, etc.) as well as the educational, social and emotional benefits of in-person learning for students”.