A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow, Feb. 2 marks the halfway point to our school year. It’s been a year to remember to say the least.
While I plan to share an update with you in the coming days regarding the next steps of our re-opening plans, I thought you might be interested to read this week’s update from our Bellingham Public Schools COVID safety team. We are sending these about once a week to staff to highlight frequently asked questions and important resources and data. As you know, information during our pandemic changes so quickly. We also post our COVID staff newsletters to our website.
COVID safety team update for Feb. 1
A Message from the COVID Safety Team
As part of our ongoing work to keep you informed about COVID safety practices and protocols we will be sharing regular updates. Each update will include the latest information from local and regional agencies as well as stories and resources within our district.
Today’s topics: ventilation, vaccine updates, where to find COVID-19 information on the BPS website, updated K-12 guidance and Whatcom County case data resources.
A breath of fresh air: ventilating our schools and buildings
In a nutshell: ventilation and air exchange in every school and classroom meets CDC recommendations for optimal air flow in the time of COVID.
- How does it work? Our classrooms have five air changes per hour or greater, and constant air exchange lowers the risk of COVID-19 spreading. All buildings have outside, fresh air that is filtered during intake. Prior to in-person reopening, all instructional spaces are measured by our colleagues in buildings & grounds for air exchange using the building’s HVAC system.
- What can I do to maximize air flow? Keep room vents open and clear from any blockages, and even though it is counter-intuitive, keep windows closed when it’s cold outside. If internal temperatures dip, it can interfere with HVAC settings and decrease the amount of fresh air coming in…so please keep windows closed until it’s warmer outside.
- Why do I have a fan? Each classroom is equipped with an additional box fan with a MERV 13 filter. This fan provides an extra layer of air flow in the space and can filter a typical classroom size with efficiency within several hours. We recommend running it before and after school hours. AND if you’re not a fan of the fan, you don’t need to run it as your space already has ample air flow (see first bullet).
Learn more about ventilation in our staff handbook for COVID times (page 6).
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Whatcom County Health Department is hosting a COVID-19 Vaccine Update Town Hall. This virtual event to be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4. The meeting is part of an ongoing effort to keep the community informed of COVID-19 vaccination efforts, plans, and progress. You can attend the event by clicking here.
Whatcom County providers receive a weekly supply of vaccines from the state. As of Jan. 27, 14,181 first doses have been administered by Whatcom County providers. Demand continues to outweigh local supply and providers receive variable amounts of vaccine from week to week. Many local and state health care providers are prepared to administer vaccine as it becomes available. When vaccine is available, it is offered to eligible community members. To determine eligibility, please use the Department of Health Phase Finder Tool.
Bellingham Public Schools links
We have recently made some updates to our district and school websites to make COVID-19 information more easily accessible. Under the COVID-19 Info menu item you will see information has been organized into different categories for easy navigation. This three-minute video will guide you through the new website menu.
We’ve also made updates to all school websites. Visitors will now see a COVID-19 Info link on the top right of their school website under quick links.
Updated: Washington state Department of Health K-12 Schools Guidance
The state DOH has updated its guidance for K-12 schools. Changes were made to the following areas:
- Requirements guiding K-12 performing arts activities.
- Quarantine language to include recommendations for people who have recently been in countries where the new variant has been identified.
- Health screening questions for staff when they arrive at work.
Whatcom County data and updates
Keep up to date on local cases through the Whatcom County Health Department COVID-19 Data. Explore the Data Dashboard and Risk Assessment Dashboard.
The Whatcom County Health Department released a newsflash on Jan. 26 with information on the UK Variant, which has been identified in Pierce and Snohomish counties but not Whatcom. Labs monitor for variants; guidance remains to wear masks, wash hands and maintain physical distance from those outside your household.