Focus on youngest learners, COVID cases rising in Whatcom County

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear staff, students, families and community,

This pandemic has posed many challenging circumstances for schools and this week has been no exception – yet there are some bright spots.

Our second graders returned to school today, Jan. 14, and this decision is consistent with guidance from the health officials to offer in-person instruction and prioritize our youngest learners. We are excited to welcome them back!

As we continue to focus on our students currently being served, our youngest learners and those facing unique challenges, we are not going to announce any additional dates just yet for bringing back other grade levels while the number of COVID cases are increasing in our area and across the state. See more about these recent increases below.

For our staff and students who are currently in-person, we will continue to follow protocols to mitigate risks: maintain space, wear masks and keep groups consistent. We will continue to run, and in places expand, small group programs for students such as internet café and athletics, as the guidance allows.

We regularly update these pages as guidance and information changes.

Increasing cases in Whatcom County

According to the Whatcom County Health Department data dashboard, the rate of cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day average are currently in the low 200s through Jan.2; however, preliminary data through Jan. 10 shows a marked increase in the case rate, in the mid 400’s per 100,000 people. The county as a whole is in the high activity level range, which is being driven by spikes in north Whatcom County. The health department guides us to these case rates as one of many important data points to make good decisions. We are in daily contact with the Whatcom County Health Department, and their staff continues to be an incredible support to us and school districts throughout Whatcom County. Other data points we consider include the school-district boundary data about case rates; transmission rates within our schools, which have not occurred to date; and hospitalization and test positivity rates. In our regular meetings with the health department we continue to see that risk mitigation efforts in schools like masks and physical distancing are effective, as transmission rates of COVID in school settings are extremely low.

Vaccines

Yesterday I met with the state superintendent and officials from the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) and was briefed on vaccine distribution and when it may be accessible to our staff and members of our community. Our district, along with many districts and labor groups across the state, are advocating for vaccines for our staff, especially those who work closely with students. Our COVID safety team is working to get more information about vaccines and will pass along any news we have to share. The supply and timeline are controlled by local health and medical officials, but we will do our best to ensure we share any updates.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Please continue to take good care of yourselves and each other.

Greg Baker