Why are we preparing to move to stage 2 in the Reconnect Plan? What metrics are you using?

We use several different metrics and factors, including the decision tree from the Whatcom County Department of Health, data and the rate of local cases. We also rely on guidance from a number of organizations and entities, including the governor’s office and health officials.  

Other important factors include transmission rates, vaccinationsagreements with our labor groups and what other local districts are doing.  

What kind of personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided and what do I need to bring/buy?

All staff will be provided the required PPE for their risk-level. Staff are also allowed to wear their own as long as it fits our requirements. We have clear requirements from the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the state Department of Health and the state Department of Labor and Industries (L and I) regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) based on risk-level. All staff will have PPE and guidance available for their risk-level. Please review our return to building guidelines.  

What are our safety protocols? How will I know how to check-in and what to do when I return to work?

We ask that all staff review the following resources: 

  • If you haven’t already, we ask that all staff watch this video, which outlines required health protocols and procedures to follow when returning to work. Remember, each school has a COVID safety team, and they can be a helpful resource if you have questions.   
  • Employer health and safety requirements for school scenarios (guidance release Sept. 30 by the Department of Labor and Industries, OSPI and the state Department of Health)  
How do I know who my COVID site safety coordinators are?

Each site has at least two safety coordinators. You can ask your principal/supervisor.  

Are we going to track cases of COVID by school?  If so, how?

Yes, our COVID coordinator will know if we have a positive case connected to or at a school, because we are notified by the health department. The COVID coordinator alerts our Director of Safety & Emergency Management, who alerts our executive team.  We then follow our tracking and communication protocols from there.  

Are we going to report COVID cases publicly?

Currently, the health department is the community lead for communications about COVID-19. They have the infrastructure and experience to share information about communicable diseases. In our schools we have a long-standing partnership with the health department for when and how we communicate regarding communicable diseases—whooping cough, chicken pox, and so forth—and we will continue to follow and update these protocols. We are updating our communications protocols hand in hand with our return to work/school protocols, and we will rely on the health department to guide who, how and when we communicate with the public.  

How might we respond if a case is linked to a school?

We have several options for responding--such as focused cleaning, temporarily partial closures of a site, etc.-- as well as communicating. Each situation is unique and will be handled on a case by case basis; the Whatcom County Health Dept assists with guidance as we go through contact tracing process for each case and the situations involving any exposures.   

If I have set up a home or off-site workspace, should I keep it? Should I be ready to work both places?

We need to think about our workspaces and classrooms differently. Create an intentional workspace that is simple and allows you the ability to adapt to either remote or in-person work. Remember that you may need to shift at-home at any time. When there is in-person instruction, classrooms will need to have furniture and supplies removed to decrease common touch surfaces. Shift to thinking about individual student supplies rather than communal supplies. 

When should staff stay home if they are concerned or they are sick? What is the district’s plan for substitutes?

Staff should stay home if they are symptomatic. The safe side would be to stay home if their household members were symptomatic, too. Human Resources staff are working on a variety of options for substitutes and will be communicating as available.    

I am sick and I do not have any sick leave or vacation time. I really can’t afford to stay home unpaid. What are my options?

Staff cannot come to work if they are sick or exhibit any symptoms. If you are concerned about leave, please contact Human Resources.   

Can I bring my child with me to work? I am their only child care provider.

No, we are sorry, but at this point, we are not allowing staff to bring their children into our buildings in stages 2-3 unless the child is attending the district’s child care program (i.e. GRADS at our high schools or the Y program at some of our elementary schools). If you need help finding child care, you can talk with your supervisor or find where there are openings for child care at Child Care Aware. 

I have questions, and I’m not sure I want to return to working on-site. Who should I talk to about my options?

Please email amanda.ingram@bellinghamschools.org in Human Resources. You should share some information in your email so that we can best know how to answer your questions or assist you.   

We have students with special requirements which may require staff to be in close proximity to students and/or other staff. How do we make accommodations safely?

We have clear requirements from the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the state Department of Health and the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) based on risk-level. All staff will have PPE and guidance available for their risk-level. Special PPE guidance for staff in medium to higher risk learning environments will be shared soon.  

What is our air filtration and ventilation like in our schools?

We have increased ventilation rates in all of our schools to prepare for students and staff returning to our buildings. Our goal is a minimum of five air changes per hour, as recommended by local and national health authorities. We have upgraded all of our air filters (they are called MERV-13) to meet new recommendations from CDC and Health Department.