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 and are made from tightly woven cloth; 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. Mask should also block light when held up to bright light source.
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 and Types of Masks
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: April 15, 2021
Governor Inslee announced that effective Thursday, April 15 all Washingtonians age 16 and up are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. This means that all students 16 and up are eligible. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for use in people ages 16 and up:
PeaceHealth has a limited supply of Pfizer vaccine at a clinic Saturday, April 17. Students or families can follow this link to sign up.
Another great resource for locating vaccination opportunities by brand is VaccineFinder.org. If seeking a vaccine for someone 16-18, please choose “Pfizer-BioNTech COVID Vaccine” in the first step of VaccineFinder.
For assistance finding an appointment, you can call the COVID-19 Information Hotline, 1-800-525-0127, then press #. Language assistance is available.
Fully vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine if they are a close contact and remain asymptomatic.
Otherwise, we continue to practice physical distancing and mask use:
- Employees maintain at least six feet away from coworkers and the public when feasible.
- Masks must be used for work.
There are no changes to L&I workplace guidance based on vaccination status at this time. While we are very grateful that many of our employees are vaccinated, vaccination status is personal health information.
We continue to protect the health of ourselves, our coworkers, medically vulnerable individuals and our community at large by wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. When public health entities inform us that local and national case rates and vaccination rates are at a place where we can shift our behavior, the COVID-19 safety teams will communicate it to all staff.
After employees have been vaccinated, can they stop practicing other preventive measures such as social distancing and wearing masks?
No. CDC recommends that people continue to take these and other preventive measures after they are vaccinated. Even if employees have received the COVID-19 vaccine, it will be important for them to continue other preventive measures such as wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, washing hands often, and cleaning high-touch surfaces frequently. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination, and the COVID-19 vaccine may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot (dose). Together, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.