JOINT RELEASE from all Skagit County School Districts
To our Skagit County families, staff and community:
Skagit County Public Health Department released new recommendations this morning during an update to Skagit County Commissioners. Commissioners also declared a state of emergency today. This will allow the county to access state and federal funding, and it also mobilizes all of our agencies to collaborate.
Skagit County Public Health Department is not recommending closures at this time, but districts may make the decision to close schools.
At this time, Skagit County Public Health is still not recommending schools close because of COVID-19. The county also emphasized that families ultimately need to do what is best for their children and other loved ones. The steps districts take may include:
- one-day closures for cleanings (day(s) will be made up after the last scheduled day of school in June – OSPI has stated districts will not have to extend the school year beyond June 19);
- dismissals when students stay home but the school remains open for staff (schools would typically do this if trying to transition into some type of long-term distance learning model)
Skagit County Public Health is recommending cancellation or postponement of non-essential large public gatherings, such as social gatherings, concerts, or athletic events that are not part of student instruction.
Public Health recommends those with weakened immune systems from medical conditions or medical treatment, adults older than 60 and pregnant women take extra measures to distance yourself from other people and stay home.
What does this mean?
Public Health is urging schools to weigh the pros and cons for large, non-essential gatherings against the risk of spreading disease. The larger the gathering and the closer the contact, the higher the risk.
Classes will proceed as normal unless there is a confirmed COVID-19 infection that necessitates closure for cleaning and disinfecting. Public Health says school closures may be targeted (meaning one school could be closed within a district, while others remain open) or widespread (meaning all schools in a particular district would be closed). Public Health has the authority to require specific school closures.
The steps that schools take, and that Skagit County Public Health recommends for schools, are likely to vary depending on the situation. These decisions are often made at the community level because the impact of this disease — the number and severity of cases, and the benefits and side-effects of closing — can vary from one school to another.
Recommendations may change.
The fact that Public Health is not currently recommending school closures does not mean they won’t in the future. This is a long-term response effort. Recommending closures prematurely can create hardship if schools need to close in the future. Unnecessary or prolonged closures are disruptive to education and to families with school-age children who cannot work from home and/or do not have reliable child care. It is important that Public Health time interventions to be most effective while minimizing negative impacts on the community.
In the event of closures, you can expect communication directly from your district. If the Health Officer recommends or requires widespread closures, that will be communicated to our districts and announced to the public promptly.
COVID-19 has similarities to respiratory illnesses like the flu, but differs in its impact on kids. Public Health has emphasized that the same prevention steps taken for the flu are effective for COVID-19.
While young children are considered a high-risk group for severe complications from the flu, they do not appear to be a high-risk group for severe complications from COVID-19.
Additional updates and resources are accessible through the Skagit County Health Department at www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirus.htm and the Washington State Department of Health at www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus.