School district, city and hospital district officials talked about how they are planning for pandemic recover

Local Arlington organizations including the school district and Skagit Regional Health talked about how they plan to recover from the pandemic together on March 29.

The joint meeting was held between the Arlington School District, city of Arlington, Skagit Regional Health (which runs Cascade Valley Hospital) and Stilly Valley Health Connections.

Officials talked about current plans on how to come out of the coronavirus pandemic and what “returning to normal” will look like.

Arlington School District Superintendent Chrys Sweeting said they are working on their recovery plan currently.

Academically there were many high schoolers who fell behind.

“There were 66 percent of our ninth graders who have failed one or more classes, but as you went up [the grades] there was less,” said Sweeting.

Seniors only had 13 percent of students who failed at least one class, she said.

The district is working on summer school programs and other ways that students will be able to backfill credits.

Sweeting said distance learning was hard on many. “Some thrived, but more struggled with it,” she said.

District officials hope to waive certain graduation requirements with approval from the board of directors.

“We’re working on graduation ceremonies,” said Sweeting.

With the improving COVID-19 virus case numbers, the school district may be able to hold graduation ceremonies this year.

“Instead of having some drive-by graduations, we may be able to have some with limited attendance,” she said.

The district wants to support students not just catch up academically but to recover from the stress and trauma of losing such a long amount of time.

“It has been very hard on everyone, our students, our families and our staff,” said Sweeting.

Ardis Schmiege, superintendent/CEO of Stilly Valley Health Connections, said her organization will be hosting a discussion on youth mental health education in April and hopes to host similar programs to support the community.

The organization, which is a project of Public Hospital District No. 3, hopes to support programs like that locally in the coming months, said Schmiege.

Their physical location could be open soon as well.

“If all goes well, we should be able to open up our building, sometime late summer or early fall,” said Schmiege.

Jola Barnett, regional vice president of operations for Skagit Regional Health, said that Cascade Valley Hospital has had to change a lot over the last year.

“Just like every other organization, COVID has had a dramatic impact on everything we do,” she said.

They are not beginning to plan what “demobilization” will look like.

“We want to keep a controlled, safe, cost-effective work process,” said Barnett. “Some items are going to stay with us forever as part of our pandemic planning."

Current procedures such as cleaning schedules, personal protective equipment, screening, isolation and vaccination efforts have all seen changes during the pandemic though.

If the COVID-19 virus wanes with the vaccine, as most hope will happen, the hospital has to bring its procedures back to “normal” though.

“We have to sit down and define triggers and targets at which point certain activities can be changed,” said Barnett.

Skagit Regional Health has set up two clinics local to the area for vaccination efforts, one of those at Smokey Point.

Those two sites have administered approximately 34,000 doses so far.

About 61 percent of Skagit Regional Health’s staff, contractors and providers have received the COVID-19 vaccine. With medical staff that number increases to 76 percent.

“The supply for the first doses remain relatively inconsistent,” said Barnett, although it is better for the second dose.

As part of the vaccination effort and ongoing pandemic work, communications officials from the four organizations have been working together.

“We are continuing to meet monthly during COVID,” said Sarah Lopez, city of Arlington’s communications manager and community revitalization manager.

The group is working to provide accurate information to encourage vaccination and continued safety measures.

“We want to make sure we were sharing consistent, factual information that was up-to-date,” said Erika Coghill, director of finance at Stilly Valley Health Connections.

“As we know there is so much information out there, some of it not as reliable as others,” said Kari Ranten, regional director of marketing and communications.

That group plans to continue to work together to keep channels of information open.

 

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