Pathway Forward Update – January 21, 2022


Summary: 

  • LWSD continuing to partner on vaccination clinics + vaccination resources 
  • Wearing a well-fitted mask is expected 
  • Stay home when sick + isolation guidance changed to 5 days 
  • Expanding testing options as supply increases + testing resources 
  • Close contact strategy changes to come + quarantine guidance changed to 5 days with test for unvaccinated staff and students 

Additional Message for EHS, JHS, LWHS and RHS staff and families:
I want to express my appreciation to our staff, students and families that shifted to remote learning for the last couple of weeks. I met with my team today to review staff availability for Monday, January 24 and, at this time, we are in a place where we can resume in-person learning on Monday as previously communicated. We are also adjusting a number of our COVID protocols in alignment with Department of Health Guidance. I will meet with my team again on Sunday to review staffing levels to confirm that we are prepared to reopen our schools on Monday for in-person learning. 

Dear LWSD Community, 

In mid-December, we all became aware of the next COVID-19 variant that would ultimately create the rise in cases that we are currently experiencing. In early January, the Washington Department of Health and Seattle-King County Public Health updated their guidance for schools. The Washington Department of Health has been explicit that we are transitioning into the next phase of responding to and mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Their updated school guidance is reflective of these shifts.  

For the past two years, the public health guidance has required us to look at case rates as a key metric for decision-making. The recent modifications to the Department of Health guidance for schools has shifted away from this methodology. Based on a large data set from schools across the state, the Washington Department of Health has made modifications to their guidance that we are incorporating into our COVID response plan. 

Our leadership team has been connecting regularly during this surge with Seattle King County Public Health to identify areas of priority for our health and safety responses. Public Health has continued to emphasize a layered safety approach for responding to the pandemic. Here are steps that we are taking and steps that we need our students and families to take to help us keep our schools safe and open for in-person learning moving forward. 

Vaccination
We are continuing to work with our health partners in the community to create vaccination opportunities. We are thankful for our partnership with SVNA in offering pediatric clinics last November and the booster clinics this month. We are currently exploring additional opportunities to support smaller, more local clinics in the coming weeks and months. 

Additional vaccination resources can be found here: 

Masking
Currently, we are operating under a masking directive per the Department of Health and our local public health officer, Dr. Duchin. It is expected that students and staff comply with this directive. Additionally, the Department of Health has continued to emphasize the importance of wearing well-fitted masks particularly during this current phase of the pandemic. We have accelerated our orders of masks to be able to support staff and students needing masks. We will be re-emphasizing the requirement and importance of wearing masks properly (fully covering the bridge of the nose and the mouth) with our students over the next few weeks. We ask our families to continue to emphasize this requirement and encourage their children to wear their masks properly when at school. 
 

Staying Home When Sick 
Now more than ever it is important that people stay home when sick. If your child is experiencing symptoms of COVID, please keep them home and seek testing options if more than one symptom is present for greater than 24 hours.  

If your child tests positive for COVID it is important for you to notify your school as soon as possible and keep your child home. 

We are adopting the Department of Health’s new guidelines for isolation. As a reminder, isolation refers to when people are sick with COVID-19 and are needing to stay home to prevent infecting others.  

Previously, people who had tested positive for COVID-19 had been required to isolate for 10 days. This new guidance asks people to: 

  1. Isolate for 5 days after symptom onset or since positive test results if no symptoms are present.  
  2. If after 5 days a person has no symptoms present or symptoms are resolving AND that person has not had a fever within the past 24 hours (without having to use fever-reducing medication), then that person may return to work or school.  
  3. Students who return to school after 5 days should continue monitoring for symptoms and continue wearing a well-fitting mask around others through day 10 (days 6-10). 

For students that are currently isolating, if you believe that you may be eligible to return under this protocol, please contact your child’s school. 

Expanded Testing 
We have ordered tens of thousands of rapid antigen tests and as those tests come into our warehouse, we will begin distributing them to our schools so that students will be able to access them. As our supply increases, we will begin phasing in a test-to-stay model where students can opt to test rather than quarantine. Currently, the supply chain is constrained, so it will take time for us to phase in the test-to-stay model. 

Additionally, we are continuing to operate PCR testing centers for students and staff if they develop COVID symptoms. Please contact your child’s school if they are experiencing symptoms for longer than 24 hours and need assistance in scheduling a PCR test.

Additional testing resources can be found here: 

Prioritized Contact Tracing and Notification 
The Department of Health has provided schools with additional guidance on contact tracing to better facilitate timely notification of close contacts. This guidance has schools focus on indoor areas where students consistently do not mask for sustained periods or during high aerosol-generating activities.  
 
We are also working to streamline our processes so that we can respond more quickly to positive cases and focus the efforts of our staff on those areas where public health officials have indicated are most important. Here are some of the things you may notice in the coming days as we put the changes into place: 

  • Close contact letters will include instructions for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on the same letter. 
  • Schools will provide a single daily notification if they have had a case or cases that day rather than sending a schoolwide notice for each case.  
  • In the event that a school receives a high volume of cases on a single day such that contact tracing would take multiple days to complete, an entire schoolwide message would be sent to provide notice of the possibility of close contact. 

As our testing supply increases and we can phase in a test-to-stay model, those schools will shift to a place-based contact tracing model. When schools move to that model a schoolwide message will be provided to inform families of the shift. 

We are adopting the Department of Health’s new guidelines for quarantine. Quarantine refers to when people are asked to stay home because they have been in close contact with someone who was infected with COVID-19, these people may or may not contract COVID-19 or develop symptoms but are asked to stay home to limit the potential for spread of the disease.

Students and staff who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should quarantine for at least 5 days (day 0 through day 5) after their last close contact (for household exposures this would be the last day the person with COVID-19 is considered infectious) with a person who has COVID-19 if they are in one of the following groups:  

  • Ages 18 or older and completed the primary series of recommended vaccine but have not received a recommended booster shot when eligible.  
  • Those under 18 who are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series.

Students and staff must wait to receive a negative test result from a test taken no sooner than day 5 post-exposure and provide the negative test documentation to the school before returning. For families of students that are currently quarantining, if you believe that you may be eligible to return under this protocol, please contact your child’s school. 

Students and staff who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they:  

  • Are ages 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.  
  • Are ages 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.  
  • Had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days. 

Finally, we will continue to be updating our COVID dashboard on a weekly basis with the data and timeframe that we provide to Seattle King County Public Health. Public Health’s reporting requirements are changing to report on positive cases only and are no longer requesting close contact data. This change will be reflected in our dashboard. King County maintains several COVID dashboards that can be helpful for families wanting to track vaccination rates, case rates and other data across our community.

Respectfully, 

 

Dr. Jon Holmen, Superintendent 
Lake Washington School District