Teachers and administrators prepare to reopen classrooms in Clark County

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As  students  and  parents  complete  their  back-to-school  shopping, Clark County teachers and administrators  are  preparing for a new school year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

After a well-deserved break, La Center School District Superintendent Peter Rosenkranz said the district’s schools are ready to return to full time in-person classes and a new school year.

“Everyone needed a break over the summer— families, teachers and administrators,” Rosenkranz said. “We all needed a little time away because it was so intense, as far as the cleaning protocols and trying to do right, not only with keeping our kids safe but with the learning as well.”

He said the La Center School District will resume classes on Sept. 7, later than surrounding districts, to allow for more time to finish construction on the new La Center Middle School.

“The best place for our kids is in our classrooms, not via Zoom,” Rosenkranz said. “Although it’s a great tool, kindergartens and first graders learning to read on Zoom is not ideal.”

Although the district reopened in April, the Washington State Department of Health announced changes to school COVID-19 regulations in July.

State health officials will require schools to enforce mask policies while indoors for all students, visitors and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not mandatory while outside.

Washington health officials are mandating public schools to follow certain cleaning protocols and to ensure proper ventilation within buildings, Rita Sanders, Battle Ground Public Schools communications officer, wrote in an email.

“The safety of all students and staff is a top priority for the district,” Sanders wrote. “All school districts must follow the K-12 health and safety requirements set by the state Department of Health.”

Contact tracing parameters also shifted for the fall. It’s considered “close contact” when a student is within 3 feet of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more. Previously, the parameter was 6 feet, Sanders wrote.

“As we have seen over the last year and a half, these are subject to change depending on the impacts of COVID-19 in the community,” Sanders wrote.

Battle Ground Public Schools witnessed a loss of 1,100 enrolled students throughout last year, said Deputy Superintendent Shelly Whitten.

“It’s hard to gauge whether the mask mandate will have an impact on enrollment,” Whitten said.

The Battle Ground offices reopened for registration, although parents and guardians can register students online as well.

“We certainly will welcome them back,” Whitten said. “If they’re willing to join us on this journey, we’re trying to figure out how to make this as normal as possible for our kids.”

The Department of Health encourages parents and guardians to vaccinate their children, ages 12 and older, with the Pfizer vaccine before returning to classrooms.

Out of all Washington residents, ages 12 and older, 70.7 percent were vaccinated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, as of Aug. 10, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

In Clark County, 484,694 doses of vaccine were administered as of Aug. 7, according to the health department.

Parents and guardians can learn more about the vaccine for children on the Department of Health website at doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immuniza
tion/SchoolandChildCare/Vax
toSchool.

Rosenkranz also urges students and staff members to stay home if they feel sick.

La Center students resumed electives, like performing arts, in the spring and they will continue to be offered this fall, Rosenkranz said.

The school will provide special masks for those in band classes to cover the horns of instruments to prevent aerosols from going into the air, he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced teachers to be creative, Rosenkranz said. One music teacher had their students sing outside, spaced apart. The staff member would even roll out the piano under a covered area when it rained.

“We’re really excited,” said Michelle O’Neil, La Center School District director of teaching and learning. “We’re getting all of our arrows going in the right direction.”

Battle Ground Public Schools and River HomeLink will hold in-person classes starting Sept. 1.

For those interested in other schooling options, the district offers at-home learning, online learning and hybrid programs through River HomeLink.

Students at Woodland Public Schools and Ridgefield School District will return to classrooms Aug. 31. The Hockinson School District will open classrooms again on Sept. 1.

CAM Academy will hold its first in-person classes on Sept. 2, according to the Battle Ground Public Schools website.

“The excitement this time of year is always palpable, and we can’t wait for the school year to get started,” Joe Vajgrt, Ridgefield School District communications manager, wrote in an email. “Our goal has always been to return our students to full-time, in-person learning and provide an atmosphere most supportive of our students’ educational and social-emotional needs.”

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