Dear Parents and Families,
From September 1 until today, the Cowlitz County COVID-19 infection rate has increased over 600 percent, which includes a tripling over the past two weeks. Due to the rapid increase in infections and its impact on our schools, the district will pause hybrid in person learning and move to remote learning for all students starting November 30, 2020.
With the Christmas/New Year break starting on December 21, students will be in remote learning for three weeks in December. Our hope is this pause will help keep our students and employees healthy and allow the district to resume hybrid, in-person learning in January.
The increase in infections across the community has had immediate impact across many of our schools. For example, three St Helens Elementary students recently tested positive for COVID-19 resulting in some staff and students who were considered to be “close contacts” placed in a precautionary 14-day quarantine. Understandably, many parents kept their children home, causing absentee rates to increase significantly at St Helens. For the health and safety of students and employees, the district then moved all St. Helens students back to full remote learning.
We have also been made aware of positive cases among staff or students in six other locations within the district. This has resulted in other staff and students who were considered to be “close contacts” being placed in a precautionary 14-day quarantine. It is important to note, however, that only one of the thirteen total cases we have become aware of was the result of in-school transmission. In all other cases, students or staff contracted the virus from a source outside of the school district.
The increasing COVID-19 rates are affecting our students in other ways too. Last week, the County Health Department notified families and the school district that twenty-nine students were exposed to someone with COVID-19 while at a local daycare center. The Health Department ordered the students to quarantine as a precaution. The increasing infection rate is clearly having a direct effect on the school district.
Our teachers are working hard to assure that your children receive a safe, quality education. They will continue to do all they can to assure that the remote learning experience we provide is of high quality and responsive to the needs of our students. We will also continue to serve small groups (less than 5) of at-risk students in-person on an as-needed basis. I am grateful for the excellent work of our staff and for the support you are also providing your child(ren) during this complex time.
Looking ahead, our plan is to stay in remote learning through the holiday break and immediately reassess the health situation to determine our next steps. The goal is to transition students back to hybrid, in-person learning safely, and as quickly as possible.
We appreciate your patience, support, and understanding as we navigate through these challenging times together.
Dan Zorn, Superintendent
Longview Public Schools