The Anacortes School District is returning all students to remote learning beginning next Wednesday, Nov. 25 through January 11, 2021, at least, because of current coronavirus cases and a projected spike in cases.
While district schools remain relatively safe, and there have been no outbreaks within our schools, the surge in coronavirus cases in Anacortes impacts our ability to staff our buildings adequately and to provide learning for students. Anacortes saw 47 cases between November 5-18. This is a rate of 204 cases per 100,000 population averaged over 14 days. Public health officials warn that the cases will continue to surge, anticipating higher rates after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“This is an incredibly sad and disappointing decision,” said Superintendent Justin Irish. “All of us would like students to return to more in-person learning, but we must and will follow the guidance of our local public health officials.”
As more children and their families are being forced to quarantine, schools find it more difficult to simultaneously manage students’ learning while quarantined and manage learning while in person. Staff from various employee groups cannot report to work, as they manage their own health risks and community exposures. We do not have an adequate substitute pool for the various positions, as the community surge in cases is also impacting substitutes.
“These decisions weigh heavily on all of us,” said School Board President Bobbilyn Hogge. “The board is grateful to our district leadership team and staff for their hard work, collaboration and dedication to students during this challenging time. We remain hopeful that we can return our students to in-person learning as soon as it is possible to do so.”
The district regularly collaborates with its local union representatives, administrators, and other staff to make remote learning as successful as possible and plan for an eventual return to in-person learning when it is safe to do so. Everyone wants students to return to in-person learning, and everyone is saddened that our community faces these unfortunate circumstances.
“Our teachers, and all our staff, want children back in our buildings. We know that students learn better in person,” said Erin Gibson, Anacortes High School teacher and Anacortes Educators Association president. “We are committed to collaborating with the district to ensure success for our students, even in this remote environment.”
During the holiday break, the district will monitor if and when it can return K-3 students to in-person learning, as well as other grades. Using the Department of Health’s Decision Tree, we will be able to reopen in-person learning when the two-week average remains between 25-75 cases per 100,000 people (for Skagit County and Anacortes). We will also be able to return in-person when we fill vacant positions or when our staff are able to return to work because their health is not at risk.
“The surge in cases locally is greatly impacting our ability to keep our building even minimally staffed,” said Mt Erie Elementary Principal Kevin Schwartz. “More of our staff are having to take time off to care for their own quarantined families, and our substitute pool is also limited for the same reasons.”
For more information visit the School District Web site.