At its May 3 Special Meeting, the Hockinson School Board reviewed guidelines and data before voting to continue with the HSD's current learning model of 5 full days of learning at HHES and 4 full days at HMS and HHS for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year.
Below is a letter that Superintendent Steve Marshall informing staff, students, and families that the HSD will remain with the secondary in-person schedule started on May 3.
May 4, 2021
Dear HSD Staff, Students, and Parents:
On behalf of the HSD Board of Directors, I want to thank all of you for your contributions to our reopening process over the past few months. It has indeed been a process, stretching from September 2020 for our students who receive Special Education services to our secondary students who yesterday returned to a 4-day-a-week, in-person learning model. As our schools have expanded in-person learning, we have consistently adhered to safety protocols such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, required face coverings, and enhanced cleaning and ventilation. Along with isolating those who are symptomatic and quaratining close contacts, these protocols have helped our district stay at zero transmissions in our schools.
I share this good news amidst a concerning backdrop: COVID infections are on the rise locally and across Clark County. Recently, I was questioned whether our district would remain in its current in-person learning model if county infection rates exceed 200/100,000/14 days. You may be aware that on March 25 the Washington Department of Health released updated school guidance (K-12 Schools 2020-2021 Guidance). The guidance supports having K-6 grade students remain in full in-person instruction with three feet of social distancing between students, even with a COVID Infection Rate of 200 or higher. It also recommends that students in grades 7-12 be cohorted or return to six feet of social distancing. Since we are unable to cohort students at HMS and HHS because both schools follow a 6-period schedule, a return to six feet of distancing would mean a return to the 2-day-a-week hybrid learning model.
Our School Board met tonight in a special meeting to discuss this matter and voted unanimously to continue with our current mode of learning. Moving forward, the Board also affirmed a commitment to monitoring new information and guidance and adjusting our learning model if deemed necessary.
The Board has consistently considered and largely followed county and state guidelines for the past eight months. But as has been communicated by the Clark County Health Department, these guidelines are recommendations, not requirements. Local school Boards have the authority to determine their district’s reopening plans. Tonight our Board determined that we will continue on our current trajectory after looking at our district’s health data and considering the academic and socioemotional needs of students and other state guidance that allows school districts to maintain their current mode of learning if they can demonstrate the ability to limit transmission in the school environment.
The Clark County Public Health Department tracks COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, and to date, there have not been any outbreaks identified in Hockinson Schools. This would not be possible without everyone doing their part - staff, parents, and students. Thank you. For in-person learning to continue in our schools we cannot let down our guard in our homes. In addition to following recommended safety practices, the Clark County Public Health Department encourages residents to get vaccinated. According to CCPH Executive Director Alan Melnick, “The greater the rate of vaccination, the lower the rate of transmission.” Currently, 32% of adults in our county are vaccinated. Expanding this number will positively impact local infection rates and, ultimately, protect our staff and students. All Washington residents aged 16 and older are now eligible to get the vaccine, which is available at pharmacies and medical offices. I also want to make you aware that Clark County is offering a free vaccination clinic at Woodland High School this Saturday, May 8 from 10 am to 5 pm. Walk-in vaccinations are also available at Tower Mall in Vancouver.
The health of our staff and students is one of HSD’s highest priorities. Our district is also committed to supporting our students’ learning and their mental health. Continuing with our current in-person model best enables us to fulfill our commitments and equitably meet the varied needs of our students. I hope we will not have to revise our plans in the final weeks, but if we do you can expect to receive updates via email and our website.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for your flexibility and support throughout the twists and turns of this school year.
Hockinson School District