Classes in Snohomish County could remain online this fall

Many districts are re-thinking plans to welcome students back to schools as COVID-19 cases spike.

OLYMPIA — Classes could be in session this fall for Snohomish County students, but local administrators might opt to follow the state’s three largest districts and continue with remote learning to kick off the year.

The Seattle, Northshore and Kent school districts have already planned for online learning in September as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state. Over the next few weeks, school leaders must choose whether to welcome students back for in-person classes in September or continue online.

Those decisions are up to the districts and local health officers, not the state, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

“We knew in June that school this fall would be different than usual,” he said in a Wednesday news release. “We are likely to see many school districts decide to take most of their instruction and supports online, while many others will provide in-person learning within the health and safety guidelines. These decisions are made at the local level with local communities.”

In Snohomish County, the Edmonds, Arlington and Lakewood school districts picked a hybrid schedule for their fall reopenings, an approach many districts around the state are eyeing. Students would be divided into two groups that would each attend in-person classes twice a week, and work remotely for the rest of the days.

They all might have to wait as COVID-19 numbers for the county and state continue to trend in the wrong direction.

On Wednesday, state leaders signaled an indefinite pause for counties advancing through the four phases of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan.

“COVID-19, at the moment, is spreading too quickly to safely reopen,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman said during a news conference.

Leaders from the Northshore School District decided it wasn’t safe to reopen schools this fall after guidance from King County health officials.

“As the science of COVID-19 continues to evolve, and our understanding of the impact of young people on the possible community transmission rates become better known, we have a responsibility to better understand that our school district is not an island,” said Superintendent Michelle Reid in a statement. “Further, with the significant number of high risk staff we have in critical positions, the task of reopening schools in person is compounded.”

Across Washington, each school district must submit a reopening plan to Reykdal’s office at least two weeks before classes are scheduled to start. As of Wednesday, eight small districts — none in Snohomish County — had filed theirs and every one contained some level of in-person instruction.

However, Inslee could still impose closures for schools statewide.

It is an “ongoing conversation” between the governor, Reykdal and school leaders, and there’s no timeline for a decision, David Postman, the governor’s chief of staff, told reporters Wednesday. There was consensus for closing campuses in March, but there is not one now, he said.

In Snohomish County, districts are developing back-up plans in case educators have to continue with online learning.

“The goal is to do the hybrid model if we are able to,” said Gary Sabol, a spokesman for the Arlington School District. “There are a lot of things up in the air. We’re trying to develop these plans not knowing if we can implement them. … Our parents want their kids in school but understand distance learning is possible if things change.”

The Reopening Arlington Schools committee, which has been working on plans for weeks, is to approve recommendations July 30. Those will go to the school board for consideration Aug. 10.

“Our goal is always to provide 100% in-person instruction five days a week,” Sabol said. “Unfortunately in the current environment, we cannot do that.”

In the Edmonds district, officials are planning for a hybrid schedule, but the final decision will be “based on the data,” Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said.

He and school board members will discuss the reopening plan during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Andi Nofziger-Meadows, who leads the teacher’s union, said she and other staff have been a part of the district’s planning all along.

“I think we’re all committed to making sure that it’s safe to bring kids back to school,” she said. “We don’t know for sure that’s going to be in September. … I trust that our school board and superintendent will use data and science to make decisions.”

Many districts are looking to local health officials to see if it’s safe to reopen.

“Ongoing discussion and updates with the Snohomish County health district are crucial to how we weigh local conditions moving forward,” Lakewood Superintendent Scott Peacock said.

The Snohomish School District Board of Directors tackled the topic at a meeting Wednesday evening. They’re eyeing three options — hybrid, online learning and home schooling in partnership with the district — and intend to ask parents next week to pick one.

In Lake Stevens, a reopening group is working on recommendations for the district’s school board to consider Aug. 12.

“We are planning for multiple scenarios that can be adjusted based on regularly updated health data to ensure that we are prepared to serve the needs of all of our students,” said Superintendent Amy Beth Cook. “We look forward to returning to school when state health experts determine it’s safe to do so.”

The district is surveying families now and will soon do the same with staff. Results will be shared with board members next month.

Across the county, school leaders have asked parents whether they’re planning to send their kids back to school in the fall, if allowed. Overall, a majority of parents surveyed are in favor of doing so if it’s deemed safe by local health leaders.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Officers respond to a ferry traffic disturbance Tuesday after a woman in a motorhome threatened to drive off the dock, authorities said. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Police Department)
Everett woman disrupts ferry, threatens to drive motorhome into water

Police arrested the woman at the Mukilteo ferry terminal Tuesday morning after using pepper-ball rounds to get her out.

Bothell
Man gets 75 years for terrorizing exes in Bothell, Mukilteo

In 2021, Joseph Sims broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in Bothell and assaulted her. He went on a crime spree from there.

Allan and Frances Peterson, a woodworker and artist respectively, stand in the door of the old horse stable they turned into Milkwood on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Old horse stall in Index is mini art gallery in the boonies

Frances and Allan Peterson showcase their art. And where else you can buy a souvenir Index pillow or dish towel?

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Providence to pay $200M for illegal timekeeping and break practices

One of the lead plaintiffs in the “enormous” class-action lawsuit was Naomi Bennett, of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Dorothy Crossman rides up on her bike to turn in her ballot  on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Voters to decide on levies for Arlington fire, Lakewood schools

On Tuesday, a fire district tries for the fourth time to pass a levy and a school district makes a change two months after failing.

Everett
Red Robin to pay $600K for harassment at Everett location

A consent decree approved Friday settles sexual harassment and retaliation claims by four victims against the restaurant chain.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.