Safe Reopen Plan Details

Hello, and thank you for taking an interest in our Safe-Reopen plan. It is important to get at the reasons behind our reopening decision and the partnership with families needed to make the year safe and successful. Outlining how RCS plans to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 transmission and address parent concerns is thoughtfully presented.

With tremendous gratitude, our amazing preschool and childcare teams at Little People and Maple Valley continued to serve students and their families throughout the pandemic. I tip my hat to their tireless dedication and superb care as it boosts my confidence to successfully
reopen our K-12 program. To the Little People Preschool & Childcare and Maple Valley Preschool & Childcare teams, Well Done!

Let’s begin with a big question. How safe are schools that have reopened?

A July 2020 report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science reviewed reopening strategies from South Africa to Finland to Israel, and found encouraging patterns.

“Together, a combination of keeping student groups small and requiring masks and some social distancing helps keep schools and communities safe, and that younger children rarely spread the virus to one another or bring it home. But opening safely, experts agree, isn’t just about the adjustments a school makes. It’s also about how much virus is circulating in the community, which affects the likelihood that students and staff will bring COVID-19 into their classrooms. So far, with some changes to schools’ daily routines, the benefits of attending school seem to outweigh the risks—at least where community infection rates are low and officials are standing by to identify and isolate cases and close contacts.” Source: AAAS, 2020/07

Those ideas were unknown last June when preparation began for the possibility of reopening K-12 learning. However, our reopening plan incorporated the AAAS ideas. Additionally, the tangible steps taken over the summer included convening a parent’s work group focused on our Safe-Reopen plan, coordinating with ESD 112’s PPE bulk-buy program, studying all guidance from the CDC, DoH, and the Governor’s office. Working backwards with AAAS' idea, I copied COVID-19 metrics for several cities served by our campuses. In the graphs below, the data shows COVID-19 tests performed,  hospitalizations, rates of infection, and the number of deaths beginning in early March. The visually-represented data communicates a different narrative than the nightly-news headlines.  Please review them carefully.

Click on thumbnail image to enlarge.

Auburn
Covington
Enumclaw
Fairwood
Kent
Maple Valley

The Governor grants all school districts decision-making power about reopening. From the graphical data, the black trend line and number of cases in our service areas shows low COVID-19 counts. The graphs stand in contrast with the flare-ups faced by Elim Christian School in Houston, Texas. Due to the surge of COVID-19 in the greater Houston area, Elim will begin the year with remote learning. The low number of cases in our area factored into RCS’ decision to reopen for in-person instruction. State health officials continuously monitor these numbers and possess the authority to close schools. Should the numbers change dramatically and mirror the reality of Houston, RCS will pivot to an online learning model for the interim. The second consideration around reopening is an ability to adhere to OSPI and DoH guidelines. In June, state Superintendent Reykdal’s 130-member team released a 55-page Reopening Washington Schools 2020 District Planning Guide.

The Guide addresses student and staff arrival, class cohort movement, and the end-of-the-day procedures for the 2020-21 school year. Students and visitors submit to a daily health screening, wear face coverings, adhere to social distancing, and sanitize or wash hands more frequently. The screening includes a temperature check via a non-contact, infrared thermometer and a question about experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Face coverings are required for all staff, students, and visitors with the following exceptions.

  • Cloth face coverings should not be worn by:
    • Those with a disability that prevents them from comfortably wearing or removing a face covering.
    • Those with certain respiratory conditions or trouble breathing.
    • Those who are deaf or hard of hearing and use facial and mouth movements as part of communication.
    • Those advised by medical, legal or behavioral health professional that wearing a face covering may pose a risk to that person.
  • Students may use face shields as an alternative to a cloth face covering.
  • Younger students must be supervised when wearing a cloth face covering or face shield and will need help putting them on, taking them off and getting used to wearing them.
  • Even when cloth face coverings are worn, continue practicing proper physical distancing.

Source: Reopening Washington Schools 2020 District Planning Guide, p. 20.

The topic of face coverings topped the survey responses submitted by RCS parents last May.
I want to thank Vivian Chow who served on our parent's work group for organizing and sorting all the survey-responses. A short answer in blue text follows the original question.

  • How will you enforce masks?

    Face coverings are required for entry into the school building.

  • Is there a chance we won’t need masks by September 9th?

    As of today, I do not believe so.

  • I would rather my child not be required to wear a face mask as they make it hard to breathe comfortably and are distracting from learning. 6th and under should not be required.

    Refer to the list of exceptions provided by OSPI. My counsel is to find the most omfortable option for each child.

  • I know this isn't necessarily up to you...my almost-3rd grader hates mask-wearing as it gives her some anxiety....I'm hoping it becomes unnecessary/optional for students.

    I agree face coverings are not enjoyable. With additional time spent wearing a face covering, it becomes more tolerable.

  • Requirement of masks all day.

    Correct, students are given breaks while socially distancing outside, PE, lunch, and snack time. Again, masks are not the only option.

  • Wearing masks all day by both staff and students. In place of masks, what about air filters that cleanse the air in the classroom?

    Face coverings are required, and options for air filtration are being explored.

  • Will masks be provided or students supply their own?

    We have ordered masks, shields, and hand sanitizer, for students and staff as well as other PPE equipment. However, I cannot speak to how comfortable the state’s provided face coverings and shields are.

  • Face shields don’t offer same protection. Why are these allowed as substitutes?

    They are permitted by OSPI guidance and must cover the students face and extend below their chin.

As noted above, face coverings are a condition of any school’s reopening plan. Facecovering options include masks, shields, hats with shields, and glasses with nose/mouth coverings. Parents should experiment with the most comfortable option for their child in advance of our September 9th start date. Ensure your child practices wearing a face covering but start with 30-minute intervals. An adjustment period provides practice with taking it off and putting it back on, and confirms if most comfortable option is selected. I want to thank Karen DeGroot and Michaela Dawn who also served on our parent’s work group for their creative suggestions. They sparked the idea about personalized face coverings. Below are several examples. It’s time to get our creative juices flowing!

Face Covers Examples

The pictures represent examples of approved-for-school face coverings. Additional criteria is coming via the building principal’s August correspondence.

In addition to the general health guidelines outlined in this letter, each campus will publish a site plan currently being prepared by the building principals. The site plan will designate a check-in area upon arrival, the safety protocol should a student fail the health screening, and how information is communicated in the event a positive test case. The principal’s site plan is scheduled for distribution to families no later than August 24.

I believe the most important factor and final decision to reopen school concerns the well-being of children. In a July 23, 2020 article, “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall,” the CDC underscores the benefits for students’ educational, social and emotional, and physical-activity needs.

When a young person remains isolated from their peers and sits behind a computer screen for several hours a day, and for months on end, there are consequences. Granted, reopening school with all the protocols in place does not guarantee a positive test case will not surface. However, in a long-term, remote-learning environment, the academic loss or regression is real. The compounding effect of uncertainty and isolation of a young person is linked to depressive symptoms and other non-trivial behaviors. Source: Behavioral Health Impacts After COVID-19 Shelter in Place Orders.

This is a prayer-based decision. My hope is, as parents wrestle with that decision, they consider the whole-person needs for each child. My youngest daughter would not thrive if she had to be isolated from her peer group for several months. My oldest daughter may have adapted better. In education, the student's relationship with the teacher is the central factor linked to their academic success and well-being. RCS administrators continue to pray to begin the year with rich opportunities to build in-person relationships. I believe that approach models what is best for most children. The low-community COVID-19 counts, and the fact that RCS will adhere to health and hygiene guidelines intend to support parents and their needs to make an informed decision. Consider the following Venn Diagram as a visual summary for the three big ideas.

VennLarge

Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, some families remain uncomfortable with returning to school right now. Families who prefer an online option for the first quarter of school, September 9 – November 6, must contact their school’s office to request an Online-Option Form by Friday, August 21. The form, provided upon request, is returned to the school in person or electronically no later than Monday, August 24. The Online-Option spans the first quarter of school. Students could return to in-person instruction on November 9, the start of the second quarter. When a family chooses the Online Option, they commit to synchronous, online learning for the first quarter. There is no action necessary for families enrolling their child for in-person instruction. Families returning to campus in September will note the key behavior changes. Parents are expected to partner with the school to adhere to health policies for a safe and successful year.