Public schools ready for in-person fall classes

Districts develop safety plans

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County students will return to a more normal school year this year,districts superintendents say, with all offered five days per week of in-person learning.

COVID-19 precautions will be in force to protect students and staff. Districts also offer remote opportunities for those who want to study from home.

All four public school districts in East Jefferson County — as well as Sequim School District, which has some Jefferson County students — are following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state Department of Health and county public health departments to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Quilcene School District released a letter to its families earlier this week outlining some of the precautions and steps the district is taking to prevent COVID-19 in the upcoming school year. The three other superintendents in Jefferson County attested that their districts will be taking similar measures.

More specific plans regarding COVID-19 precautions were still in discussions as of Friday. District officials are awaiting further recommendations and guidance as released by the health departments.

More details will be released by the various districts over the next few weeks, superintendents said.

District officials are urging all eligible students and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Quilcene is hosting a vaccination clinic from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Quilcene School Library using the Pfizer vaccine. The clinic is in partnership with the county Department of Emergency Management and Tri-Area Pharmacy. Appointments are required and can be made at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-QuilceneClinic or by calling 360-344-9791.

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people 12 and older; minors must have a signed parental consent form filled out, which can be found at the end of the appointment sign up.

Mask wearing by students and staff will be required indoors at all districts in accordance with state and county guidelines, superintendents said.

Social distancing of at least 3-feet apart will be followed as much as possible. High-touch surfaces and areas will be cleaned frequently. Frequent hand washing will be encouraged. Staff and students who are sick will be asked to stay home.

Rapid COVID-19 tests will be available at the schools in case of a student or staff member having symptoms of COVID-19. District officials will assist with contact tracing and work with the county health department if someone is sick at the school to ensure proper responses are followed.

Port Townsend

Port Townsend School District students will return to school on Sept. 7.

“It feels great to know that we can offer five days a week in person to all of our students and that we now know more about Covid and how it spreads and how to prevent it, so that we can reduce disruption to that in-person learning,” Superintendent Linda Rosenbury said.

“I’m very optimistic that this year there will be less need to quarantine, so we can keep kids in school.”

This is Rosenbury’s first year with the district. She was hired near the end of the last school year, having worked prior to that at Highline Public Schools as the project manager for the return to in-person learning.

“I was able to be in Washington state last year, learning from an experienced superintendent and understanding what was going on with Covid,” she said,.

”I feel very equipped to take this on and I feel very blessed to be in a community that has been learning in-person for so long, unlike other districts in Washington state.

“I’m just so grateful that our national leaders have recognized the impact that being out of school has had on many students and are prioritizing the health, social and emotional well-being and learning of students. Last year was tough. This will year will be better.”

Port Townsend School District also has launched an online Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) called the Edgenuity program for first- through 12th-graders starting this school year.

More information on the Egenuity program and other ALEs offered in Jefferson County can be found at https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/online-programs-to-be-offered-in-port-townsend-chimacum/.

More information about the upcoming school year for Port Townsend can be found at https://ptschools.org/.

Chimacum

Chimacum School District students also will return to school on Sept. 7 with precautions against COVID-19 in place.

“To be honest, I’d rather be doing different things,” working on other improvements in the district “but safety is the most important thing, so this is what gets my attention and I’m happy to do it,” Superintendent Scott Maukhe said.

Mauk is delighted to welcome students to full-time in-person instruction.

“When you don’t have students around, you really lose sight of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. When the students are around it makes things clear and really wonderful. I’m really looking forward to having the kids back. We all are.”

More information about the upcoming school year for Chimacum can be found at https://www.csd49.org/.

Quilcene

Quilcene School District students will return to fulltime in-person classes earlier than usual this year, with the first day of school on Aug. 30, said Superintendent Frank Redmon.

The earlier start date allows the district to offer a Thanksgiving break of a full week and a new mid-winter break in addition to the standard winter holiday and spring breaks. The goal is to make it easier on students to ease back into full time in person learning.

“I know from most of our students, being in person when they can have face-to-face contact with their teachers and their peers, then their relationships can be developed to help strengthen their educational academic emotional development, Redmon said.

More information about the upcoming school year for Quilcene can be found at https://www.qsd48.org/.

Brinnon

Brinnon is a K-8 school, so most Brinnon high school students attend school in Quilcene. Therefore, Brinnon is following a similar schedule as Quilcene School District with the first day of school Aug. 30, said Superintendent Trish Bethard.

“We want to be respectful of our families,” she said about matching the schedule with Quilcene.

Brinnon School District is in a unique situation in East Jefferson County. The district had students attending four days a week with Wednesdays as remote learning days throughout the 2020-2021 school year. This year, the remote learning day has been changed into an in-person day so that instruction in person is five days a week.

“It won’t feel that different for us because we were there last year,” Beathard said. “I think in a way, it’ll feel a little better, as we don’t have to plan for remote Wednesdays. That should provide some relief for teachers.

“We’re excited to have all of our kids back, be back five days a week, and we expect to make exemplary academic progress.”

More information about the upcoming school year for Brinnon can be found at https://www.bsd46.org/.

Sequim schools

Mask breaks are planned for students who attend in person for full days five days a week when the Sequim School District resumes instruction on Sept. 1.

“We will take scheduled mask breaks so they aren’t sitting there for six or seven hours without a break,” said Superintendent Jane Pryne.

High school students will have an opportunity to find relief from face masks between classes, Pyrne said, adding that Dr. Allison Berry, public health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, has said that elementary school students can play outdoors with their masks off.

“If that changes, we will accommodate,” Pryne said.

The district has hired additional personnel to help with spacing at lunches and is following all recommended cleaning protocols, she said.

Those who prefer remote learning can enroll in the Dungeness Virtual School, which offers K-12 classes.

If the community suffers a large outbreak, “we will follow the guidance of Dr. Berry,” Pryne said, adding that the health officer has been very responsive to all questions.

Plans are all in place now but if new information is presented, then an emergency meeting of the school board would be called.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]