Clark County school districts, including Camas and Washougal, to bring kindergarteners back to classrooms

Public Health director says small-group, in-person education for youngest learners 'safe for both students and staff,' meets WA's COVID-19 guidelines

Kindergarten students in Camas and Washougal — as well as in the Battle Ground, Evergreen, Green Mountain, Hockinson, La Center, Ridgefield and Vancouver school districts — will return to small-group, in-person instruction “in the coming weeks,” according to a news release sent to media this afternoon. 

“Bringing small groups of kindergarten students in to classrooms for in-person education is a cautious and incremental approach that fits within state health department guidance,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health director and county health officer, stated in the news release. “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.”

The news release said school districts will decide “how and when kindergarten small group learning may be implemented” and that district leaders will provide families and staff with more details in the coming weeks. The school district superintendents have agreed the small-groups will include no more than 10 kindergarten students per cohort. 

School districts throughout Clark County have said for months that certain metrics — including the county falling below the COVID-19 community transmission rate of 75 positive cases per 100,000 residents — must be met before they would bring students back to the classroom for a blend of remote- and distance-learning. 

Today’s news release said 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.”

Those guidelines allow in-classroom learning for students with high needs, such as students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness and very young learners. 

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

Both the Camas and Washougal school districts have been offering small-group, in-person instruction to their special education students and some pre-kindergarten students since the summer. 

The news release said “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.”

Public Health said it will continue to monitor virus activity in the school districts and  surrounding communities. 

This is a breaking news story. For more information, read this week’s Post-Record and visit camaspostrecord.com for more updates. 

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