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Ferndale School District Communication Updates and Information Resources

Governor Jay Inslee mandated that all K-12 schools in Washington State close for traditional, in-person learning due to COVID-19 in March 2020. This web page provides communication updates and resources for families during the pandemic.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Ferndale School District Information Update

A letter to families from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sent Friday, November 20, 2020 with an information update.

Find previous communication update letters archived below the latest featured update.


Dear Ferndale Families,

With all the news about the number of COVID cases on the rise, I am sure you have questions about how this is impacting our plans in the Ferndale School District. I want to start by saying that many things have changed over the course of the pandemic, but these three basic principles have remained constant:

  1. We are committed to the health and safety of staff and students as our top priority.
  2. We are committed to providing the highest quality, most equitable education we can to all of our students without jeopardizing their health and safety, the health and safety of our staff, or the health and safety of our community.
  3. We are committed to working closely with our local Whatcom County Health Department and making our decisions based on the guidance they provide to us.

When the Governor came out with his new restrictions last Sunday (November 15), he stated clearly that he was not closing schools, because there have been very few cases of in-school transmission of the virus. Rather, he directed local districts to work with their local Health Departments to decide how to proceed in their local setting.

The following day (November 16), the State Superintendent of Public Instruction sent an email to all Washington Superintendents following up on the Governor’s new mandates. I am including the text of Superintendent Reykdal’s email here because it contains some links that you may find useful.

Dear Superintendents:

Yesterday, Governor Inslee announced a four-week statewide set of restrictions in response to the recent rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

You may have questions about what the new restrictions mean for K–12 schools. As they have been throughout the phased county-by-county reopening, school districts are exempt from the restrictions. 

The Governor and our state’s public health experts continue to emphasize the importance of school reopening and prioritize local decision-making in doing so. As you continue to plan and prepare for potential school reopening, you must continue to:

The proclamation does include language prohibiting school and non-school related sporting activities. Please see the set of restrictions for the complete guidance. WIAA will also be following up with additional information. 

The full proclamation from yesterday is available on the Governor’s website. Please continue to reach out to us or to your ESD with questions.

Chris

In accordance with our principles and the Governor’s order, we spent time this week meeting with officials from the Whatcom County Health Department and the other Whatcom County superintendents. Since our meetings, the Health Department’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Greg Stern, published another letter with updated guidance (dated November 19), which is now up on the Whatcom Health Department website. Here is a direct link to the letter.

Based on the new guidance, our intent is to hold our course with students we are currently serving in-person, but to put a pause on our plans to bring back additional secondary students within the next month.

I took notes during our meetings with the Whatcom Health Department, which I then asked Dr. Stern to check for accuracy. Here are excerpts from my notes:

  • When all health and safety guidelines are being followed, the data does not show in-person learning in the hybrid model at the elementary level is contributing to community spread of the virus. As we learn more, we are able to finetune our intervention responses, rather than using a broad brush to treat every activity with the same restrictions.
     
  • Based on science, we can expect a revised Decision Tree for school reopening to be published soon, and the new guide will set different thresholds. That is, the current numbers for the moderate zone (25-75 cases per 100,000) will likely be higher, and young learners will likely be allowed to access in-person instruction even if the case numbers are high.
     
  • At this time, Whatcom Health Department officials are not recommending we rollback what we are already doing to serve students in person in our schools, but rather that we put a pause on bringing back additional students.
     
  • The one exception is that Whatcom Health Department and WIAA are both recommending we roll back all indoor athletic practices for the time being. As such, we will now only allow students to engage in outdoor activities in cohorts of five or fewer if they are wearing masks at all times
     
  • The mitigation factors we have in place are working. Specifically, more evidence has been amassed to prove the effectiveness of two and three-ply cloth masks when they are worn properly and consistently. The Whatcom Health Department is finding that cases occur more in people who have close, indoor contact without face coverings in denser or larger gatherings.
     
  • Regarding the question of having students eat lunch in their classrooms, when the Governor has declared a moratorium on in-person indoor dining in restaurants, Whatcom Health Department officials explain the difference has to do with the ability to cohort and control interactions, which is possible in schools but not in restaurants. Restaurant dining contributes to risky social behaviors, like being in an enclosed space without masks for extended periods of time with groups of strangers. 
     
  • Whatcom Health Department officials expressed the opinion that we should avoid sudden changes in plans, such as opening schools one day and closing the next, because such changes can be very difficult for families and derail their ability to carry out their own health and safety plans.
     
  • As of this date, none of the Whatcom County School Districts are shutting down the in-person learning they have already put in place. They are pausing plans to expand in-person learning.
     
  • Whatcom Health Department officials will step in to recommend rolling back in-person learning when there is data showing schools are involved in the transmission of the virus. So far, that has not been the case in any significant way. Even when there have been students or staff with confirmed cases, contact tracing has shown contraction and/or spread of the virus has rarely occurred in schools (and never occurred in Ferndale schools to date). Most transmission is resulting from house parties and social gatherings.
     
  • At the recommendation of the Whatcom Health Department, we continue to use Whatcom County metrics, not district-specific metrics. We are using the county rate to track the COVID-19 disease activity because: (1) The relatively small population of Ferndale means that very few cases can cause wild fluctuations in the rate, making it very difficult to determine a trend. (2) We do not have travel restrictions between districts. Many staff and some students live in other attendance areas and almost all of us travel to shop within other school boundaries, making the county more reflective of what our actual exposure may be.
     
  • Families and community members can help maintain the progress we have made toward resuming in-person learning in schools by following the Governor’s new guidance for confining community spread of the virus, especially as we enter the holiday season.

I want to acknowledge that our current situation is creating new layers of anxiety at a time when many are experiencing pandemic fatigue. This is hard, but I am proud of the care with which our staff has implemented health and safety measures in our schools. I appreciate the strong collaborative work we have done with our employee groups, community members, and local health officials since the beginning of Ferndale’s response to this national health crisis. We remain dedicated to providing the highest quality, most equitable education we can to all our students without jeopardizing their health, the health of our staff, or the health of our community. Finding the right balance between safety and service will always be our goal.

Please stay safe during this season of Thanksgiving.

All my best.

Linda

 


Archived Letters from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn:

Week of August 10 - August 14

Week of August 3 - August 7

Week of July 27 - July 31

Week of July 13 - July 17

Week of June 29 - July 3

Week of June 15 - June 19

Week of June 8 - June 12

Week of June 1 - June 5

Week of May 18 - May 22

Week of May 10 - May 16

Week of May 3 - May 9

Week of April 26 - May 2

Week of April 19 - April 25

Week of April 12 - April 18

Week of April 5 - April 11

Week of March 29 - April 4

Week of March 22 - March 28

Week of March 15 - March 21

Week of March 8 - March 14

Week of March 1 - March 7

Week of February 23 - February 29

Quick Links Resources

Concern or question?

Student and staff safety is our top priority. If you have a question, concern or comment about any health or safety issue, please let us know.

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Additional resources

Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention