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Western Washington school districts discuss how to safely return to in-person learning

School districts across the state are closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases as they work to decide when students can safely go back to the classroom.

EDMONDS, Wash. — School districts across Washington state are closely monitoring the number of coronavirus cases right now as they work to decide when students can safely go back to the classroom.

Parents and students are eager to see life return to normal, and now there are districts making some first steps in that direction.

In Edmonds, on campuses like Madrona K-8, developmental Kindergarten classes are being held in school buildings again.

Harmony Weinberg, spokesperson for Edmonds School District, said the district launched a reentry plan with four stages. Currently, the district is in stage one.

“Those are students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Those are our students who are visually impaired. We really needed to get them back in to offer them in person learning,” said Weinberg.

“Today we have some of our developmental kindergarteners coming back in for in person learning, and throughout this month we'll wrap up with stage one,” she continued.

The district said it is actively working toward stage two which would bring back kindergarten, first and second graders as well as some more Special Education Programs.

At the Snoqualmie Valley School District Office, a rally in support of reopening schools took place Monday morning.

Lisa Connors, a parent of two high school students, was in attendance because she said it is time to get back in the classroom.

“Unfortunately, the online learning system that we have going now is failing,” said Connors. “It's being shown all across the world, our country, even in eastern Washington that schools can open safely, and for some reason our schools here in western Washington are not open.”

Snoqualmie Valley School district responded to Monday’s rally on the district’s website, and sent KING 5 the following statement:

"We appreciate the broad range of advocacy and passion that we’ve heard from parents today and throughout the pandemic. At a Special School Board Meeting on December 29 during Winter Break, we outlined targeted return dates to support more groups of students with in person learning. Depending on COVID positivity rates and other preparation factors, we are hopeful to bring back more of our youngest learners, later in January, and continue to phase in all learners over time. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the post-holiday impacts of COVID this week, while working with our labor leaders to ensure a safe and appropriate work environment for all of our staff and students. We’ll provide another update on Friday, January 8, once we’ve seen how the week progresses."

In Everett, Archbishop Murphy High School started off the new year by using a hybrid model, allowing up to 50% capacity.

“They do a rotation of two days on campus and then two days off campus where they're doing Virtual Learning when they're off campus,” said Alicia Mitchell, the private school’s principal.

Mitchell said they have taken an incremental approach to phasing students back onto campus since mid-September

Safety protocols include daily health screenings before students ever even physically enter the building, and the school makes sure that students are physically distanced and wearing masks throughout the school day whenever they're on campus, according to Mitchell.

“We have not had any exposure to kids on campus. We only had one positive exposure. It was outside of the school day with an outside contractor,” said Mitchell. “Our plan is to continue to consult directly with Snohomish County Health Department, and to follow public health guidance. We want to make sure that we keep everybody safe, but that we offer in person learning experiences for kids as much as possible.”

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