Arlington middle and high school students are scheduled to return to class in March with a hybrid model after a vote by the Arlington School District board of directors on Feb. 9.
The plan was approved to return sixth graders on March 8, seventh and eighth graders on March 15 and high schoolers on March 22.
Freshmen will have an orientation day available as well.
Snohomish County is currently in the “Moderate” phase of COVID-19 activity according to Gov. Jay Inslee’s school guidelines.
Under that guidance, schools are allowed to phase in in-person learning, starting at the elementary school level and continuing to middle and high school if the district can demonstrate a low level of COVID-19 spread.
The district has had elementary students, particularly the younger grades, back in the classroom since late last year, and has not seen any outbreaks.
“We cannot completely eliminate the risk of transmission, but to date we only have one documented potential instance of transmission at school since we started bringing students back to school in June of 2020,” said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations for the district.
Some health officials say schools have not yet seen a serious cause of the spread of COVID-19.
“At the micro-level we see cases in schools, but we don’t see much transmission in schools,” said Snohomish Health District Health Officer Chris Spitters during a Feb. 9 press briefing. “There are occasional clusters of cases, but nothing that gets above five or ten cases,."
The guidance from the Snohomish Health District continues to allow for schools opening, as long as they have safety measures and are in a hybrid model so that not all students are on campus all the time.
“We encourage schools to gradually return kids to school as long as this continues to go well,” said Spitters.
Arlington plans to follow county and state advice on safety measures.
“The guidance has been comprehensive and our practices and policies are based on the provided guidance,” said Lewis. “Limiting transmission in the school is one of our biggest safety goals."
The school district will continue with measures it has used at the elementary level, including daily health screenings of students and staff, quarantining of any student or staff member who has been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, temperature checks, universal mask wearing, maintaining six feet of physical distance as often as possible and encouraging frequent hand washing.
“We haven't had students challenge mask wear at this point, in fact students have been very compliant with mask wear requirements,” said Lewis.
Students are "cohorted," or kept in self-contained groups, as often as possible, said Lewis.
One method the school is using to create cohorts is the hybrid schedule, which was used in the elementary school and will continue with middle and high school students.
The schedule will have half of students going to in-person class Mondays and Tuesdays while the other half goes Wednesdays and Thursdays. The remaining learning is still done online.
“By using this form of cohorting, we reduce the number of students in both school buses and in the classrooms,” said Lewis.
The district will have to change some things for the middle and high school levels through.
“The biggest challenge will be the number of students in a building and their class schedules. Different grade levels of students can participate in the same class, so our cohorts will be bigger,” said Lewis.
Lewis thanked the elementary school parents who have been complying with the measures to help keep the community safe.