Health Officer Recommends K‑6 Return To School

Posted February 4, 2021 at 5:30 am by

Frank James MD, health offi­cer for San Juan Coun­ty, sent this open let­ter to coun­ty schools on Jan. 30.

I am rec­om­mend­ing that schools con­sid­er open­ing grades K to 6 for in-per­son education.

The Wash­ing­ton state met­ric for open­ing in-per­son edu­ca­tion has not been met due to high rates of infec­tion in our four-coun­ty region, how­ev­er, it is appro­pri­ate to start the open­ing process.

As you are aware, an incre­men­tal approach start­ing with the low­er grades is pru­dent. This allows for steadi­ly increas­ing expe­ri­ence with hav­ing chil­dren and staff in the build­ings and time to per­fect safe­ty and health pro­to­cols that will allow schools to move for­ward in a thought­ful and care­ful manner.

All schools may not be ready to move for­ward. Poli­cies and pro­ce­dures may not yet be in place, ade­quate staffing may not be avail­able, or it may be impos­si­ble to ade­quate­ly dis­tance stu­dents into small­er groups. It is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble there may be oth­er fac­tors lim­it­ing a school’s abil­i­ty to open safe­ly as well.

Please note that this is NOT a man­date to open schools, espe­cial­ly if these essen­tial pre­cau­tions are not yet in place.

With regard to ath­let­ics, I do not believe it is safe to con­duct ANY indoor sports at this time. I do believe that it is safe to con­duct low and medi­um risk sports, out­doors only. Full guid­ance for sport risk groups and other
addi­tion­al safe­ty require­ments are in the governor’s Jan­u­ary 2021  guid­ance. Please note that San Juan Coun­ty is cur­rent­ly in Phase 1.

Please also note that though the governor’s guid­ance allows for indoor sports in some sit­u­a­tions, I do not believe it is safe to do so at this time.

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