Cedarhome Elementary, 10.1.20

Cedarhome Elementary School kindergarten teacher Carin Koster readies her classroom for students on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020.

Some students returned to classrooms this week, and more should follow suit in the coming weeks, Stanwood-Camano School District officials said.

The district opted to pause in-person learning during the first two weeks in January in a bid to limit potential spread of COVID-19 after the holidays.

“We did learn of others who had tested positive during the break, so the exposure pause was really helpful,” said Maurene Stanton, the Stanwood-Camano School District executive director of human resources.

Last week, the district tested the returning staff, finding one positive COVID-19 case out of 127 staff members tested, Stanton said.

“We haven’t had an outbreak so far this school year,” she said. “And I am not aware of any transmissions that occurred on school property. … We’ve proven that our safety protocols have worked.”

Students who are attending in-person — K-3 hybrid, small groups and special education programs — will be joined by fourth- and fifth-grade students on Feb. 1 in a hybrid model.

The Snohomish Health District has recommended schools bring high-needs children and K-5 students into buildings under a hybrid model, citing schools that follow safety protocols for younger children have not been a source of major outbreaks.

One month ago, Gov. Jay Inslee revamped health metrics for schools, including recommending in counties where COVID-19 cases are more than 350 per 100,000 residents schools should offer in-person instruction for elementary and high-need students in small groups of 15 students or fewer. For counties below 350 infections per 100,000 people, in-person learning should be phased in, starting with elementary students not already attending in-person and middle school students, followed by high school students.

Snohomish County's COVID case rate is 428 infections per 100,000 people, according to the most recent data.

Stanton said the district wants to bring back middle and high school students in a hybrid plan when allowed.

“We are working with our teachers on an agreement to bring back students,” Stanton said.

In addition, Stanton said the district is hoping the state allows the next group eligible for the vaccine to include all teachers and staff, not just those age 50 and older.

The state’s plan currently calls for school staff 50 and older to get the vaccine in Phase B1 in January or February. Younger staff are scheduled to be eligible in Phase B4 in April.

The Washington Education Association is asking the state to not separate the groups by age.

“Educators should be prioritized as soon as possible,” said WEA President Larry Delaney.

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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