Clark County school districts agree to move to in-person education for kindergartners


In-person instruction for small groups of the county’s youngest learners believed to be a safe, cautious approach; consistent with state health guidance

The superintendents of nine Clark County school districts have collectively agreed to move forward with bringing small groups (pods/cohorts) of kindergarten students to school buildings for in-person instruction in the coming weeks. School officials believe the decision is safe and aligns with the state guidance for reopening schools.

The superintendents of nine Clark County school districts have collectively agreed to move forward with bringing small groups of kindergarten students to school buildings for in-person instruction in the coming weeks. Photo by Mike Schultz
The superintendents of nine Clark County school districts have collectively agreed to move forward with bringing small groups of kindergarten students to school buildings for in-person instruction in the coming weeks. Photo by Mike Schultz

The following Clark County school districts, working in close partnership with Clark County Public Health, are prepared to bring groups of 10 or fewer kindergarten students in to school buildings for small group in-person education:

  1. Battle Ground
  2. Camas
  3. Evergreen
  4. Green Mountain
  5. Hockinson
  6. La Center
  7. Ridgefield
  8. Vancouver
  9. Washougal

Specific plans for how and when kindergarten small group learning may be implemented will be made by individual districts, in collaboration with their employee association leaders. Districts will provide detailed information about their plans to employees and families in the coming weeks.

“Bringing small groups of kindergarten students into classrooms for in-person education is a cautious and incremental approach that fits within state health department guidance,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health director and county health officer. “With small group sizes and continued preventive measures, such as mask-wearing and physical distancing, we believe in-person education is safe for both students and staff because children this young are less likely to transmit the virus to others.”

Last week Evergreen Schools Superintendent Mike Merlino estimated during their last board meeting that approximately 1,700 of the district's students are accessing buildings for educational purposes on a daily basis. Photo by Mike Schultz
Last week Evergreen Schools Superintendent Mike Merlino estimated during their last board meeting that approximately 1,700 of the district’s students are accessing buildings for educational purposes on a daily basis. Photo by Mike Schultz

Many of the districts have already started some small forms of in-person education. For example, last week Evergreen Schools Superintendent Mike Merlino estimated during their last board meeting that approximately 1,700 of the district’s students are accessing buildings for educational purposes on a daily basis.

The decision to provide in-person education to the districts’ youngest learners was made in close collaboration with Clark County Public Health and is in line with Washington State Department of Health guidance for counties that have high COVID-19 activity. The guidance allows for in-person education for small groups of the highest need students, such as students with disabilities, students living homeless, those farthest from educational justice, and younger learners.

“Kindergarten students have no classroom experience and remote learning presents significant challenges for our youngest learners,” said Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Steve Webb. “This is a cautious, thoughtful and safe approach to support effective student learning for very young students.”

Although varied, local school districts have been providing safe, in-person instruction to small groups of special education students, some pre-kindergarten students, and kindergarten students since the summer.

Schools will continue to utilize preventive measures such as health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms, physical distancing, mask wearing, increased hand washing, and enhanced cleaning protocols.

Clark County Public Health, in partnership with school districts, will continue to monitor virus activity in schools and the community. The current decision applies to kindergarten students only. Decisions regarding in-person education for other grade levels have not been made at this time.

Information provided by Educational Service District 112.

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