The Blaine school district expects to return all hybrid students to the classroom Monday, April 19, superintendent Christopher Granger announced in a March 29 community Q&A. Following the state Department of Health’s new K-12 guidance that reduces physical distancing between students to 3 feet, the district can increase class size by five to nine students.
While the change in guidance helps the district get more students back into the classroom, it does not return class size back to normal. In the webinar, Granger said the 3-foot requirement does not allow the district to double the number of students in the classroom but does allow for all hybrid students to return to the classroom for the rest of the school year. Online students will remain online for the rest of the year, and the four-days-a-week, half-day schedule will not change.
Granger and administrators across the state have advocated for months for such a rule change so they can get their schools back to full capacity.
Granger said the district is planning to have all students back in the classroom in the fall, and said returning all students looks possible with the rule change, schedule rearrangements, classroom size adjustments and low enrollment.
“Our goal for next school year is all students in the building, all day, five days a week,” he said. “We really feel like we can do that safely. We will build our schedules differently to accommodate for the 3 feet of space.”
Governor Jay Inslee announced the change March 25 to align with the CDC’s revised guidance to allow at least 3 feet between students in classrooms from the previous 6-foot minimum.
The revision only applies to students in the classroom. Six feet of distancing is required everywhere else in the building, and adults – teachers and staff – are to maintain 6 feet of distancing at all times, Granger said.
The definition of a close contact – being within 6 feet for 15 or more minutes in a 24-hour period – has not changed. Granger said if a positive case is detected in the school, families should expect more students will be asked to quarantine due to the close proximity.
If local transmission rates increase and Whatcom County falls back into Phase 2, the 6-foot rule will be reestablished, Granger said.
Although the state’s 3-foot rule change went into effect immediately, Granger said the district had to work with local labor groups to make sure the environment was safe for teachers. Hybrid students returning April 19 allows for all staff members receiving their second dose this week to be fully vaccinated.
Granger said the school schedule will remain the same. The only change is A and B week students will combine and be in class together every week.
In the Q&A, Granger encouraged participation in the upcoming family survey in May that will provide an opportunity for feedback from families who wish to keep their students in online-learning next year. Participation will help administrators plan for next year, he said. Students will default to in-person learning next year if they do not request otherwise.
“We’re really hoping the majority of students and families will choose to return to the in-building learning model,” Granger said.
Granger also encouraged those who can to drive their children to school or have those who can drive themselves as transporting students remains a challenge. The district is also looking for bus drivers.
More information can be found on the district website at blainesd.org/article/428633.