Local private schools mulling in-person class this fall

Administrators say the smaller schools can follow safety guidelines more easily than public schools.

EVERETT — It was a 30-minute Zoom meeting with consequences for thousands of families in Snohomish County.

Last week, Dr. Chris Spitters, the county’s top health officer, met with public and private school superintendents from throughout the county. With COVID-19 cases rising to levels previously seen during the virus’ peak in March, he told them it was too risky to bring students back to campuses this fall. Within hours, most of the county’s public school districts announced they’d resume distance learning to start the year.

However, local private schools, with fewer students and smaller class sizes, are still considering in-person instruction.

“We’ve got big classrooms, 33 acres, seven play fields,” Northshore Christian Academy Superintendent Holly Leach said. “We’re prepared to really follow all those health protocols.”

But Spitters says his recommendation applies to both private and public schools. Either way, the risk is too high.

School starts in early September at Northshore’s campus in Everett. Right now, administrators are making plans for both in-person and remote learning. If spread of the virus starts to decline, they could opt to bring students back. If not, it’ll be more remote learning for students in the fall.

The clock is ticking on that decision, though.

If a district wants to bring students back to campus, they have to submit a plan to safely do so to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at least two weeks before classes start. Requirements for in-person instruction include students wearing masks and social distancing in classrooms.

“We are holding things loosely, with that in mind,” Leach said. “We want to do our best to provide the best for our families. But ultimately keep our kids and our families safe.”

If Northshore offers in-person instruction, two registered nurses will be on campus, students will be screened for symptoms and families will have the opportunity to continue with remote learning.

Archbishop Murphy High School south of Everett has three plans for the fall — 100% in-person instruction, a hybrid schedule and fully remote learning.

“AMHS is unique in that we do not face the facilities overcrowding issues or large populations common to many other high schools,” the school website says. “We are blessed with a small school community of under 600 students and staff. Our spacious campus also has 3 separate buildings.”

Administrators hope to announce a final plan next week, school spokesperson Shannon Reese said in an email. The school is hosting an online town hall with parents on Wednesday.

Both Cedar Park Christian School in Lynnwood and Holy Rosary School in Edmonds previously said they’d offer in-person instruction, though it’s unclear if those plans have changed.

In Everett, St. Mary Magdalen School as well as Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help School also hoped to welcome students back in the fall. Now, both are waiting on guidance from the Archdiocese of Seattle.

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

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