The Washington State Department of Health released new COVID guidance for K-12 schools.
The record number of COVID cases in King County has significantly impacted Kent School District as the omicron variant continues to surge. In addition, since learning has resumed after our winter break, we have experienced high absence rates among staff in labor groups and students across all schools. Yet, our fantastic team continues to work together to keep our schools operating amidst this surge despite last week's wintery weather.
Based on public health reports, even with the new quarantine and isolation time changes, we anticipate that absences will remain high through the end of January. However, our priority is to keep schools open as long as we can provide staff to operate in-person learning safely.
We are not alone in KSD; schools and districts across our nation face the same issues navigating this pandemic. However, last fall, we worked with our Kent Education Association (KEA) partners to agree on a plan in case we need to transition to remote learning due to a COVID closure at a school or districtwide. And while I am incredibly grateful for our MOU with KEA to pivot to remote learning, this pandemic continues to evolve. Moreover, a school or districtwide pivot to remote learning impacts not only all of our labor partners, but remote learning inequitably impacts our students and families. For these reasons, we will continue to do all we can to keep our schools open for safe and healthy in-person learning for our students.
We will continue to follow public health guidance, track positive cases, close classrooms working with Public Health, and minimize the spread of COVID in our schools by following strict COVID safety protocols while supporting student learning and well-being. In addition, we are adding COVID testing sites and times, deploying central office staff to schools as available, and looking into additional vaccination clinics to increase student and community vaccination rates.
On January 7, 2022, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released new school guidance for K-12 schools. Since the update was released last Friday, we have been updating our documents, training staff on the new guidance, and updating our website.
- Students and staff who are not fully vaccinated and who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 need to quarantine for at least 5 days after their last close contact exposure, get tested at least 5 days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19, and wear a mask at home, in school including in extracurriculars, and in public for the next 5 days.
- Students ages 5-17 years and adults who have completed their COVID-19 vaccines, and adults who are vaccinated and have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine after exposure but should watch for symptoms until 10 days after the last contact with someone with COVID, get tested at least 5 days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19, and wear a mask at home, in school including in extracurriculars, and in public.
- Staff and students who tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, need to isolate for at least 5 days, and in some cases, longer. Isolation ends after 5 full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours or five full days after a positive test if you are symptom-free. You will need to continue to wear a mask for an additional 5 days after your quarantine is finished at home, in school including in extracurriculars, and in public.
Please visit the DOH guidance K–12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021–2022 School Year for more information.
Together, we can keep our students and staff in schools safely.