KEEPING KIDS IN SCHOOL SAFE
Schools are the heart of Lakewood, and our students are at the center of it all. They are the priority when it comes to safety, health, and learning.
Keeping families and the community knowledgeable about what schools are doing is a vital link in helping everyone know why it is important for the health and safety of students and staff to follow the protocols. Trust and transparency will help continue to keep schools open for in-person learning 5 days a week.
“I’d like to thank all the families in our district who have been patient with the many processes that seem to change weekly, and that allow us grace in these circumstances. Please know that we are working tirelessly to keep your kids in school in the safest manner possible.” said Jennifer Rucker, school nurse at English Crossing Elementary School.
Lakewood school leaders believe students should still be able to experience a sense of normalcy despite the pandemic. During these first weeks of classes, students and staff are fully masked, standing the recommended three or more feet apart, and making the most of lunch arrangements where students are assigned seating sections to mitigate contact. At the same time, it is also easy to see a community of belonging, hard at work, laughing, sharing their summer stories, and enjoying each other’s presence after a remote learning environment.
Huge kudos go out to our school nurses and the broader student safety team for their amazing work every day. Sanitizing, performing contact tracing, testing, reaching out to families with questions, keeping track of all the data, and staying up to date with the latest factual information, more than fills their workday.
The current health and safety protocols in place reflect the most up-to-date recommendations and requirements from the Washington State Department of Health and the Snohomish Health District. To minimize the transmission of COVID-19, staff follow the required mitigation measures and meet the reporting requirements set by these public health organizations.
School staff continue to:
- clean and disinfect,
- maintain a face covering policy indoors and outdoors at large events regardless of vaccination status,
- encourage a physical distancing of three or more feet within the classroom,
- provide free testing,
- implement quarantine protocols and accommodations,
- offer programs for remote or distance learning and continuity of services for quarantined students, and
- require staff to be vaccinated for employment.
Lakewood employees are serious in their commitment to students. Nearly 85% are now fully vaccinated and the remainder are granted exemptions allowed by public health authorities. Regular testing and heightened job-specific masking have allowed our staff to meet requirements and continue to contribute to our schools. “Staff have really stepped up in a big way to put the needs of the students first and prioritize safety and health,” said Superintendent Scott Peacock. “We continue to be whole as a district, united under one mission to create a welcoming, inclusive, safe, educational environment for students to be successful.”
Transparency is a key component of Lakewood schools’ pandemic response. A COVID-19 clearinghouse is provided on the district’s website where families and the community can easily access information and resources. Under the COVID-19 tab, there are sections for parents/students, staff, and the Curative COVID test. The district’s COVID-19 dashboard was recently updated. That page now offers weekly reports broken down by school. These reports provide the aggregate number of confirmed cases (staff and student combined), the number of close contacts on 14-day quarantine, and the number of close contacts on a testing alternative to quarantine.
Right now, the alternative options to quarantine offered are a “Test to Return” and “Test to Stay” program. Test to Return allows individuals who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive case, the option to test out of quarantine after 7 days. Under Test to Stay, close contacts of a confirmed case (on-campus only) have the option to stay in school under a “modified quarantine” for the first 7 days after exposure. Lakewood School District has adopted these new protocols to provide multiple layers of precaution, and encourage proactive testing consistent with the health district and CDC guidance. They provide a more responsive approach to managing quarantines based on thorough and increasingly refined contact tracing. “We also have added to our health room support staff, ensuring that we have both a nurse and classified health room support in every school to assist with contact tracing and testing. Our health room to staffing ratio is leading Snohomish County. We are confident that these programs will be a benefit to students and staff while mitigating risk,” said Peacock.
“Since we initiated the ‘Test to Return’ program here in the district, I have witnessed a sigh of relief for many of our families. We all understand the impact that the cold, flu, and COVID have had on our students, and it’s been a positive action step getting them back in school with our ability to test our students and families so that we may return with fewer missed days,” said Rucker.
For students it is the activities and events that are often the most anticipated. Lakewood schools use a safety-first approach while continuing to modify procedures. Athletics and music have always been a huge part of the Lakewood community. Despite doubts and questions about how these programs were going to continue, school leaders have kept the programs underway. While there have been some cancelations or reschedules, many excited families, students and attendees have participated.
As many of us have learned during this pandemic, things are always changing. Lakewood staff continue to do what they can to make sure school is still fun and educational. From teachers to bus drivers to administrators to members of the School Board, we appreciate the community’s understanding and patience. The story of Lakewood School District has always been that we will take care of each other and work through challenges together. We are #bettertogether.