Enumclaw School District Superintendent Dr. Shaun Carey was in the state spotlight last week when he joined Gov. Jay Inslee to announce news regarding reopening schools across Washington.
On Feb. 16, Inslee said Washington is expanding its COVID-19 testing services for schools across the state, going from 11 districts participating in a pilot program with the state Department of Health, the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, and the nonprofit Health Commons Project to at least 48 districts participating.
“This is part of our ongoing effort to give more students the option to return to in-person instruction,” Inslee said. “And it obviously increases access to testing, both for educators and students.”
One of the first school districts to enter into this voluntary testing program was Enumclaw.
“Our staff has appreciated the opportunity to participate in weekly testing,” Carey said. “The addition of COVID testing, working in tandem with our countermeasures and with our safety protocols, provide an additional layer of protection, if you will, for our learning community that allows for us to safely serve our students in this hybrid learning model.”
While staff have been able to be tested every Friday at any of the school district’s buildings, students have not.
“Currently, the COVID testing done at each ESD building is for ESD staff only,” said Public Information Officer Jessica McCartney. “We are in the process of expanding our testing capabilities to symptomatic students. We expect to be able to offer this voluntary service to our students (with consent from the parent(s)) in the coming weeks and will communicate the information to our families soon.”
All ESD grades have returned to their buildings for an in-person/remote learning hybrid model: grades K-2 returned Jan. 11, 3-5 on Jan. 25, and 6-12 Feb. 1.
According to Carey, about 80 percent of Enumclaw School District students have opted to return to in-person learning.
But although he described the program as “successful,” that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any hiccups.
For example, Byron Kibler elementary had to close late January for 10 days due to five staff members coming down with the coronavirus.
“At this time zero ‘close contacts’ due to contact within the building have been identified and the source of these cases remains inconclusive,” the district wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to parents.
Other schools have fared better, but a small number students and teachers continue to contract the virus.
As of Feb. 17, Black Diamond Elementary has experienced a total of five COVID-19 cases since the district started tracing the disease early November; according to the district, four of those cases happened in the last 14 days, although it appears all the cases were traced to outside the school building (meaning students and staff were not infected while at school).
Sunrise Elementary has also seen a total of five COVID-19 cases, though none were recorded in the last 14 days as of Feb. 17.
Enumclaw High School, on the other hand, has experienced a total of 15 COVID-19 cases; eight cases were traced to activities outside school, one case was traced to in-school activities, and the remaining six are inconclusive. According to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard, only two cases happened in the last two weeks, as of Feb. 17.