Hockinson secondary educators to vote this week on deal to return to schools


A previous agreement was voted down last week due to concerns about a possible staff outbreak

BRUSH PRAIRIE — After a setback, it appears Hockinson School District should soon have a start date for secondary grade levels.

A tentative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Hockinson Education Association reached on Feb. 24 ended up being voted down by a majority of teachers in the district, forcing a delay in plans for a move to hybrid.

Parents rally to reopen Hockinson Schools to in-person learning in early January. File Photo
Parents rally to reopen Hockinson Schools to in-person learning in early January. File Photo

On Monday, the union posted an update to their Facebook page, noting that an updated tentative memorandum of understanding had been reached, and would be voted on by teachers later this week.

One of the concerns prompting the no vote last month, according to the union, centered around a positive case inside Hockinson High School which had much of the front office staff on quarantine.

“Our members recognized that to open our high school without office staff in place would have been reckless and would not give our students and staff the support they need for a safe and successful transition into this new hybrid learning model,” the union wrote.

In response, Superintendent Steve Marshall said he added a page to the district’s website with information about COVID-19 in Hockinson schools, which showed that there had been two known cases in Hockinson High School since Sept. 4, with no known transmissions from one staff member to another.

“The fact that we didn’t publicize this was not so much, in my perspective, an issue of transparency,” Marshall told the school board ahead of a closed meeting on Monday evening. “It was just, I guess, size. It wasn’t a big issue.”

Hockinson School District now includes data about current and previous COVID-19 cases on its website. Image courtesy Hockinson School District
Hockinson School District now includes data about current and previous COVID-19 cases on its website. Image courtesy Hockinson School District

Marshall promised the district would keep the COVID-19 outbreak page active at least through June, and update it with information from Clark County Public Health. Information on schools is updated each Thursday.

The union said many teachers also felt that there had been inadequate training and student orientation regarding reopening, and it wasn’t made clear when that would happen prior to moving to hybrid.

“There are many different variables unique to the function of a secondary school, especially in a small district, which must be taken into consideration as we prepare for this transition,” wrote the union, “and all of these considerations must comply with the guidelines of the state’s Department of Public Health.”

The Washington Department of Health allows high school grade levels to begin reopening within 14 days after a county has moved below 200 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two week period. Clark County reached that mark last week at a rate of 137 per 100,000, and fell further this week to 105.

Kari Frings and other Hockinson School District parents rally for reopening schools last January. File Photo
Kari Frings and other Hockinson School District parents rally for reopening schools last January. File Photo

Marshall said the district has been notifying staff in schools if a known case was on campus, and then following up with anyone who was considered a close contact, meaning they were within six feet of the infected person for at least 15 minutes, and asking them to quarantine and potentially seek testing.

“Hockinson High School staff and Hockinson High School families received a communication saying there’s been an infection at Hockinson High School,” Marshall clarified, “but it wasn’t (sent) out district wide. Hopefully, this data dashboard will help with the district-wide communication.”

HEA did not disclose what changes had been made to the previous MOU, or when a vote would take place other than “later this week.” If approved, the district could release reopening plans toward the end of this week, or early next week.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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