School Districts Stay On Course Amid COVID-19 Concerns
Despite the increase in COVID-19 measures, school districts in Spokane County and most of the rest of the state have committed to learning in person when classes resume on Monday.
The county’s three largest districts, Spokane, Central Valley and Mead, have all reaffirmed their intention to provide in-person instruction.
“SPS will provide in-person instruction,” a spokesperson for Spokane public schools said in an email on Thursday. Mead and CV sent similar one-sentence responses.
None of the districts shared contingency plans if student and staff numbers returned from a two-week break on Monday.
The claim comes as an omicron-fueled surge is skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in the United States. Children are hospitalized in record numbers, and experts lament that most young people are not vaccinated.
During the week of December 21-27, an average of 334 children 17 and under per day were admitted to hospitals across the country with the coronavirus, a 58% increase from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are concerned that the situation will get even worse between the holidays and back to school,” said Dr Stanley Spinner, chief medical officer of Texas Children’s Pediatrics & Texas Children’s Urgent Care in Houston, told CNN.
Other experts stress the importance of keeping children in classrooms.
Dr Paul Offit, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said it’s important for children to be able to stay in classrooms – and not just for their academic health.
There are so many advantages to learning on the spot. Children need the socialization that comes with being in school, ”Offit said in the same CNN report.
At the same time, some regional universities are taking a cautious approach to the new variant.
Students who were about to start classes in the January term at Whitworth University will log in instead of going in person.
Earlier this week, Whitworth said most classes on campus will be held online Jan. 3-9 due to COVID-19. Eleven classes that include labs and activities will be in person. All regular campus services will be open as usual, including residences, food services and computer labs.
Earlier in the week, the University of the Pacific in Seattle opted to temporarily switch to distance learning. The school will begin its winter term remotely, with all classes taking place online from January 3-7.
Public schools in Seattle, the state’s largest district, said they would maintain their plan to reopen in person after winter recess, though families are advised to “prepare for the possibility” switch to distance learning if the data changes significantly. Classes are canceled on Mondays so the district can test all staff and students.
The US Department of Education is urging school districts to take security measures and ensure classrooms are open for in-person learning.
Nationally, children continue to represent a small percentage of people hospitalized with COVID-19. Additionally, many doctors say the young people arriving now appear to be less ill than those seen during the delta’s surge over the summer.
Two months after the approval of vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11, about 14% are fully protected, according to CDC data. The rate is highest among 12 to 17 year olds, at around 53%.