Health department recommends local school districts start remotely

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Whatcom County health officer Dr. Greg Stern recommended to county superintendents and private school administrators that schools plan to start the school year with remote learning, according to a press release from the county health department.

“I do not feel it is safe to open schools in September for traditional classroom learning,” Stern said in the press release. “I expect that our current infection rate and its ongoing increase will not slow or reverse enough to allow for safe operations in the fall. Given this, and the lead time needed to prepare for school operations, I strongly recommend schools prepare for remote learning to start the school year.”

In his decision, Stern considered the potential impact reopening schools could have on the continuing increase of Covid-19 cases in the county, according to the release. The risk for staff and students with underlying medical conditions also impacted the decision.

The Blaine school district planned to discuss the recent recommendations at an August 5 special school board meeting.

Blaine school district superintendent Christopher Granger has repeatedly said during meetings this summer that the school district will prepare for starting the year with remote learning, despite its current plan for families to choose either a hybrid model of learning or online classes.

Lisa Moeller, school district public relations specialist, said she believes the district will be prepared to start the year remotely, if needed, because that was already an option for families.

Erika Lautenbach, Whatcom County Health Department director, acknowledged and thanked the school districts in the county that worked this summer to plan for reopening in the fall.

Health officials in Snohomish and Pierce counties have issued similar guidance, according to the release.

As of August 3, Whatcom County had 941 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 38 deaths, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health. Washington state had 59,379 cases and 1,619 deaths, according to state health data.

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