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Distance learning still the plan for fall at Clark County schools

Area school districts are holding course in recommending a remote start to the school year.

Eight districts — Battle Ground, Camas, Evergreen, Hockinson, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver and Washougal — plan to continue distance learning into the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Woodland Public Schools, mostly located in Cowlitz County, is also slated to adopt a remote learning plan.

State officials announced guidelines last week for school reopening based on county coronavirus transmission rates — recommendations that just barely offer a pathway for some Clark County schools to reopen for in-person instruction.

Following the state’s recommendations, however, is not required. Gov. Jay Inslee and state Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced that they’d defer to local school districts so long as it remains safe to do so, and local officials say transmission rates remain too high to safely open campuses, according to Educational Service District 112.

“Schools are not islands, meaning virus transmission in a school will spread into the community, just as transmission within the broader community will make its way into schools,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s Public Health director and county health officer, said in a news release. “Clark County school leaders made the appropriate recommendation to start schools remotely and this recommendation is supported by the state’s new metrics, as well as Clark County Public Health.”

Counties reporting 75 or more cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks are considered “high risk.” The state recommends schools in those areas continue remote learning in the fall.

Clark County falls just shy of that. The latest two-week transmission rate reported by Clark County Public Health was 74.3 new cases per 100,000 residents, putting Clark County in the state’s “moderate risk” category.

Under the state’s guidelines, schools in those counties can continue remote learning for middle and high school students, while reopening schools for elementary-age students.

Under both levels of reopening, the state also recommends pausing sports and extracurricular activities.

Districts are eyeing a hybrid school model as transmission rates decline, bringing in partial classes on alternating schedules of in-person and online instruction.

“Our ultimate goal is to get students back in the classroom, but we must do so safely, using the best available health and science data and expert guidance,” Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Steve Webb said a news release. “Until that time, we will engage students in a thoughtful, robust and accountable remote learning model.”


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