Blaine superintendent worried about returning to remote learning

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Blaine school district superintendent Christopher Granger and district Covid-19 coordinators are concerned about the district’s ability to sustain full-time, in-person learning this school year.

In a September 17 community message, Granger encouraged students and staff to stay home when sick in order to slow transmission and limit close contact with others. “We are growing concerned and feel on the brink on whether we can continue to operate long term due to the sheer volume of symptomatic students and staff across the district,” he wrote.

Last week, according to the district’s Covid-19 dashboard, the district had 41 positive cases. During the two preceding weeks, the district had six cases each.

Granger said if cases continue to increase as they are in the community, the district could struggle to staff buildings and departments.

The district has been moving staff around as needed but if case rates continue to increase it may have to resort to hybrid or remote learning for a short period of time, he said.  Although Covid-19 cases remain high in the county compared to other times during the pandemic, the most recent Washington State Department of Health data shows case rates are decreasing in all school district areas.

This decision would be made with the guidance of the Whatcom County health department, he said. “It all depends on the situation we’re in at the time.”

Seven of last week’s cases were in the primary school, 10 in the elementary school, five in middle and 19 were in the high school. Only in the high school was a cohort of students required to quarantine.

Last week, the football team had to cancel its game because of positive cases and players who were exposed needing to quarantine.

So far this school year, the district has a total of 53 positive Covid-19 cases, according to the dashboard.

In the message, Granger asked for the community’s help to stay home if sick.

“But it’s just a cold or allergies you say? Did you know that many Delta variant cases of Covid-19 are starting out with typical cold or allergy-like symptoms? Please, don’t treat this like it’s ‘just a runny nose,’” Granger said. “Right now, with the wave of this current variant, that is one of the most common symptoms. Every staff member and student with any one of the Covid-19 symptoms should stay home.”

Granger went on to say that people should also remember that there are families in the district whose children are seriously ill, and they are not frustrated or inconvenienced but frightened.

“Being the target of the frustrations of many comes with the job of being superintendent,” Granger wrote. “I can bear that, because I know I am making the best decisions I can, with the information I have, and within the constraints of the guidance and mandates that have been issued, while keeping our students’ safety and education at the forefront. I care deeply about each and every one of our students and staff and their families, and I want us all to still be here when we get to the other side of this.”

This story was updated September 23 to reflect the district's updated Covid-19 case totals. At press time, the dashboard reported the district had only 29 cases in the week of September 11-19.

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