Schools are closed through the end of the school year
— Created April 8, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Students in Washington K-12 schools will not be returning to the classroom to finish the school year.
Gov. Jay Inslee, along with Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, announced Monday school closures will be extended for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. This affects all public and private schools in the state.
“We simply cannot take the chance of reopening on-site instruction in this calendar school year,” Inslee said. “We cannot risk losing the gains we have made after the peak of this pandemic presumably will have past.”
All schools will continue with plans for distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
“We know that distance learning can never replace the learning and other benefits that students get from attending school in person,” he said. “But this unprecedented health emergency demands that we take this step.”
Inslee said officials would continue to look at potential options to bring students back for things like graduation ceremonies for seniors. But graduating seniors are still expected to meet requirements and keep up with their work.
“Our seniors are going to graduate,” said Reykdal. “They have requirements by the state for certain credits and those are moving forward and they’re being engaged…and our state Board of Education is poised to waive some of those credits for students who absolutely need that. But it does require a good faith effort. We can’t just put our pencils and pens down and say we’re done. we’ve got to work through this.”
In Oak Harbor, public school officials said this is a scenario for which they have been preparing since Gov. Inslee announced a 30-day closure last month.
“Our new online and distance learning program launches Monday, April 13 and our teachers and staff look forward to connecting with all of our students through innovative means,” read an online statement from Oak Harbor Public Schools Superintendent Lance Gibbon Monday. “We’ll be sending you more information this week about the new system. You can also find updates on our distance learning page at www.ohsd.net/distancelearning. We will continue developing and expanding this program to carry us through the end of school in June. “
“We are currently in the process of calling each student and establishing a personal connection with them and checking on their needs (Chromebook, internet),” said OHPS Communication Officer Conor Laffey. “We are still issuing Chromebooks and have enough to make sure each student has access. The biggest challenge is internet access. For those students, we are creating packets of the materials.”
Students and teachers at South Whidbey School District are on spring break this week, but in a letter to parents, SWSD Superintendent Jo Moccia said the district will continue to improve its online/distance learning as teachers and instructors become more familiar with it.
“We will continue to provide computer resources as needed and will help with connectivity if necessary,” Moccia wrote. “While this [closure] is extremely disappointing for all of us and not the outcome that we would have wanted, it is a necessary step in order for us to do our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and making sure we keep as many people as possible safe and healthy.”
STAY HOME ORDER EXTENDED
Gov. Inslee’s announcement on school closures comes on the heels of his announcement late last week that his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order has been extended through May 4.
As before, all gatherings are banned, non-essential businesses are to remain closed, residents are to remain at home as much as possible and practice social distancing if they must venture out. Officials said social distancing measures appear to be helping to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but residents should continue to follow the order to make a greater impact.
Washington State Parks will also remain closed through May 4.
FACE MASKS RECOMMENDED, REQUIRED ON NAS WHIDBEY ISLAND
Meanwhile, local, state and federal health officials all suggest people wear cloth face masks while out in public, particularly in places where a social distance of at least six feet cannot be maintained. Because manufactured masks are needed by healthcare workers, officials say cloth masks, which can be made at home, are sufficient.
Masks will not protect the wearer from potentially contracting the COVID-19 virus, but they can help prevent the wearer from spreading the virus, which can be transmitted whether a carrier is showing symptoms or not. This is currently just a recommendation for most Washington residents.
However, anyone working on NAS Whidbey Island, whether active duty or civilian, and their families MUST wear a cloth face covering on all Depart of Defense property and installations when maintaining social distance is not possible. In addition, all uniformed and civilian Navy personnel are encouraged to follow all Center for Disease Control guidelines – including the use of face coverings – while off government property.
According to the order, official uniform face coverings will be coming. Until then, medical or construction-type masks can be worn if people have them. If not, they can fashion their own or wear cloth coverings such as bandanas and scarves, providing they are “conservative in appearance, not offensive and conform to CDC guidance.”
Any face covering – whether for use by military personnel, civilian employees or the general public must meet the following requirements:
· Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face and allow breathing without restriction
· Cover the face only from nose to chin.
· Must secure in place with ties or ear loops.
· Any cloth mask must have multiple layers of fabric.
Directions on how to make your own face coverings can be found on the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html. Patterns for sewn fabric masks are also available online.
As of press time Tuesday, there were 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Island County. Of those, 111 were on Whidbey Island, 31 on Camano. There have been five deaths, all of them on Whidbey Island.
In a press release Friday, Island County Public Health said it was investigating several confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees of Walgreens, Walmart and IDEX in Oak Harbor. According to the release, there may have been “potential public exposure” at Walgreens between March 22 -27 and at Walmart between March 23-30. IDEX is not open to the public.
ISLAND TRANSIT MAKES ADDITIONAL SERVICE CUTS
For the second time in as many weeks, Island Transit has announced cuts to its service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The additional reductions went into effect Monday, according to a press release issued Friday.
The revised emergency service plan eliminates all Saturday service beginning this weekend, reduces the number of trips on current routes and suspends two routes completely – the NAS Whidbey Island route and the connector route from Camano to Everett.
“The safety of the traveling public and our employees is the number one priority,” said Todd Morrow, Island Transit executive director. “We wish we did not have to make these service cuts, but given the challenges presented by COVID-19, we have no choice.”
Detailed information on route and schedule changes is available at www.islandtransit.org. Riders are advised to sign up for Rider Alerts through the agency’s website.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT WEBSITE FOR CORONAVIRUS NEEDS
WhidbeyHelp.com has been created to help neighbors in need on South Whidbey Island. According to an announcement by the Langley Chamber of Commerce, “To slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, current best practices include social distancing for everyone, and remaining at home for people who are particularly vulnerable to complications. These measures have left some people in a tricky situation, unable to take care of basic needs.”
A local web developer designed WhidbeyHelp.com as a tool to help people with needs connect with people who have the ability and resources to lend a hand. Anyone in the “at risk” population is encouraged to ask for help with grocery delivery, post office runs or any necessary errand to enable them to remain at home.