Unhealthy COVID-19 numbers persist, so the Enumclaw School District has been forced to backtrack. And, as a result, plans to return children to their elementary buildings have been pushed back indefinitely.
That news was released Friday afternoon by the district as part of a message delivered to families.
That’s a dramatic departure from a message earlier this month indicating students in kindergarten through fifth grade would return to in-person learning – in a hybrid model – next Monday, Oct. 26.
That plan has been called off and the culprit is the ongoing pandemic that is infecting the population at a rate deemed unacceptable to health experts.
The school district, when it announced a planned return of K-5 students, noted there was a “look-back” period built into the schedule. Last week’s message to families was succinct.
“During this look back period, there continues to be an increase in positive COVID-19 cases both locally here in Enumclaw and Black Diamond and in King and Pierce Counties,” the district shared.
It was noted that a safe return to school is tied to transmission rates established by the Washington State Department of Health. The crucial numbers for DOH are: 75 new cases per 100,000 population during a 14-day window. Infection rates throughout the Enumclaw School District clearly outpace those parameters.
The most recent numbers show 109.9 new cases per 100,000 people for the Enumclaw/Black Diamond area in the last 14 days, the district said. Looking at King County as a whole, the figures are a bit better (92 per 100,000 at 14 days); in Pierce County, the rate is 99 new cases.
“We are monitoring these numbers on a daily basis,” the school shared with parents. “As of today (Oct. 16), these numbers continue to climb and given the current trends, we anticipate that Enumclaw/Black Diamond will not securely return to ‘moderate’ by the 26th of October.”
Beyond that, the district attempted to assure parents the school system is poised to act as soon as health officials give their blessing.
“While we are taking a pause in the transition, we are not pausing in our planning and restructuring to be able to move to the hybrid model. We do not have a specified date when K-5 students will transition to the hybrid model, however, we want to be ready to do so when the numbers allow for it.
“It is still our goal to bring these students back as soon as safely possible. We will communicate a timeline for this as soon as it is determined. We want to give families as much advance notice as possible once we have established a return date.
“This is a tremendously complex situation, but we continue to work out all of the details that are necessary to ensure we can meet the needs of students and staff. This work will allow us to be prepared to transition to the hybrid model when the COVID-19 case rate data allows us to safely do so.”