Jefferson County schools back to remote classes

Infection rates driving decision

Port Townsend, Chimacum and Quilcene school district students will transition back to complete remote learning next week as a result of the rising case rates of COVID-19 in Jefferson County.

Students will return to remote learning on Nov. 30, according to announcements made by each school district.

Brinnon School District personnel will make a decision about the future of their learning model by this afternoon, Superintendent Patricia Beathard said.

School districts will continue to provide free meal services for students 18 and younger.

“While we hoped it wouldn’t be necessary, our staff has been actively planning for this eventuality for months,” said Sean Moss, Quilcene K-12 principal, in the district’s announcement.

“Consequently, this won’t be a mirror image of last March.

“Some of the big changes you’ll notice will be in teachers’ abilities to leverage video and other technologies to increase student engagement. In grades 9-12, all students will have a single page to visit daily that will list direct links to all assignments, meetings and tasks.”

District personnel did not want to have to return to remote learning, but with a case rate above 100 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks in the county, officials said they are trying to protect the staff and students from possible infection of COVID-19.

“I have considered the serious impact this will have on our students and their families,” said David Engle, Chimacum acting superintendent.

“With a significantly increased rate of community infection, our hybrid in-person learning model is vulnerable to frequent disruption due to out-of-school exposure of students and staff.

“This high community-infection rate impacts both our learning model and the safety of students and staff. On balance, I understand that moving to a remote-learning model is necessary. It remains, however, a difficult decision.”

Quilcene School District will continue to monitor the situation. But the announcement listed mid-January as the earliest time for reassessment of when to resume in-person education.

Engle will continue to monitor the situation throughout the holiday season. Once case rates stabilize and begin to decrease, the district will start to make plans to resume in-person education, he said.

“We’d like to return to a more robust in-person model, if at all possible, in our second semester,” Engle said. “We’ll have time to plan for that.

“I am weary of this pandemic; as I’m sure each of you are. In fact, it appears that pandemic fatigue is part of our problem. It seems that we’ve let our guard down locally,” he continued.

“While we once enjoyed a remarkably low infection rate relative to our neighbors, it looks like we’re moving quickly to a very unsafe level of infection as reflected in state trends. We can take actions to control this community spread, but it requires continual vigilance and making good decisions.”

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Jefferson County Reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].

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