We use several different metrics and factors, including the Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic 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, vaccinations, agreements with our labor groups and what other local districts are doing.
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.
Masks are essential to limiting spread of COVID-19 and increased layers of masks will increase protection. On Feb. 10, the CDC released research on increased efficacy of masks by layering and fit. The Washington state Department of Health has not made any changes to their guidance.
We expect that students and staff not wear gaiters, bandanas, or valve masks due to CDC recommendations. If a student or staff member is wearing one of the above, we will provide them with a mask to change into. If a student or staff member needs an accommodation they should work with their principal or supervisor individually.
The CDC suggests selecting masks that: have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric; completely cover nose and mouth; fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps; have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.
When layering masks, the CDC says not to double mask a KN95 or any disposable masks; a single snug fitting KN95 OR a procedural mask with a cloth face mask on top are two examples of variations that increase effectiveness.
- Let us know if you have needs or questions about masks or PPE.
- Check out these tips from the CDC: Improve How Your Mask Protects You
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.
Each site has at least two safety coordinators.
Building strategies that improve air quality are part of a layered defense against COVID-19 transmission. District Safety and Operations leaders utilize recommendations from technical experts (like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers), local health jurisdictions, OSPI, WA DOH, CDC, and public health research institutes to stay current with best practices in environmental health mitigation.
View page 6 in the Staff Handbook for more information about ventilation.
Update: March 3, 2021
Governor Inslee added educators and licensed childcare workers to the current vaccine prioritization. This means all Bellingham Public Schools staff are now eligible to receive the vaccine. Staff received an email to sign up to receive the vaccine.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) determines vaccine eligibility. District staff are working with local providers to connect eligible staff to schedule vaccination appointments. Our roles in this effort are mainly as an intermediary to make sure that eligible staff get connected to vaccine opportunities and as ongoing advocates for expanded vaccine access to the community.
Our COVID-19 dashboard shows confirmed positive cases of Bellingham Public Schools students or staff engaged in in-person learning or work at a district site. If no contact tracing and no closures are required in a small in-person learning community it may not be possible to share data and also protect confidential health information. The Washington State Department of Health small numbers reporting guidelines provides more information about data reporting and protecting confidential health information.
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.
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.
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.
Staff should stay home if they are symptomatic. The safe side would be to stay home if their household members were symptomatic, too. If a household member has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the staff member should not report to work and should contact their supervisor. A staff member is considered a close contact if a household member is a confirmed case. If a household member is experiencing symptoms but has not tested positive yet and the staff member is not experiencing symptoms they can go to work.
Staff cannot come to work if they are sick or exhibit any symptoms. If you are concerned about leave, please contact Human Resources.
Please email email@example.com 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.
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.