As I write this article we have now been in session for the first month of school and we have been able to maintain our full face-to-face instruction model for students.

Ellsworth School District, as expected, has seen some cases of COVID-19 among our students and staff. When a case is identified in our schools, a team of staff begins the process of working with Pierce County Public Health to communicate with families while also conducting contact tracing. This process includes gathering a wide variety of information such as the person’s classroom schedule, transportation used to and from school, co-curricular activity involvement, lunchroom seating, contacts outside of the school day, etc. This can be a lengthy process, but for the most part, our cases have had limited close contacts.

Students who are identified as close contacts are excluded from school for 14 days and are enrolled in our online program that also serves families who have chosen to not attend at this point and those excluded from school due to COVID-19 illness.

Students who become ill during the day, or are reported as ill at home, are excluded from school for 10 days or until they receive a negative test if they have COVID-like symptoms. This also includes anyone in the same home such as siblings or parents.

We all need to be aware that COVID cases in our schools can happen at any point in time and have a very different impact on our schools. In some student cases, we may see very limited close contacts that need to be excluded. In other cases, the impact may be broad and may lead to many exclusions. This is also true for any staff case.

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With this, we all need to keep in mind that our schools may need to change on a short- or long-term basis to more of a hybrid or online program. This is happening all over the state on a daily basis.

I know that our entire staff would like to thank our students and families for their willingness to adapt to the many changes we have had in all of our schools. We have implemented many mitigation steps in our attempts to limit the spread of COVID in our schools. Life is very different in our schools in many ways and our students and staff have done a great job adapting to these changes.

Our students and staff have also done a wonderful job wearing face coverings during the school day. This has truly been a non-issue for our students on our buses, in our classrooms, and in our hallways. Our original plan that included staff and students wearing face coverings during the majority of the day was changed somewhat, but not dramatically, by the governor’s mask order.

Pierce County has seen a large increase in COVID-19 cases since early September. Through this time we have been able to keep our schools operating. We all have a part in doing what we can to limit the spread of the virus with an emphasis on physical distancing and wearing face coverings. We really appreciate all that our families are doing to support our ability to keep our students and staff in school.