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Clark County COVID-19 surge sets back in-school learning plans

A surge of coronavirus cases has sent Clark County from the moderate to high range, and dashed hopes to expand hybrid learning.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A surge in COVID-19 cases is dashing the hopes for schools reopening soon in Clark county. Maybe blame it on the smoky skies that kept people together indoors more, or possibly Labor Day weekend socializing a few weeks ago. But whatever caused the new cases has pushed back plans for limited in-person learning for at least another three weeks.

Clark County Deputy Health Officer Steven Krager said the latest COVID-19 activity has bumped the county from moderate to high.

High is anything above 75 new cases per 100,000 people in a two-week period. After creeping up through the sixties over the past six weeks, the latest two-week reading surges the county to 76.15 per 100,000.

That's too high by state guidelines to start bringing kids back to school.

“We desperately want to get kids back in school, we think it's very important,” said Krager. “The problem is the higher the rate of infection in the community the more likely that cases are going to end up in schools.”

There are some students already spending limited time in classrooms. Evergreen Public Schools is the largest district in the county with about 25,000 students. The district started bringing some kindergartners back just this week in a pilot program.

“They're very excited about being in school and seeing their teacher and getting used to the classroom environment,” said Gail Spolar, Director of Communications for the district.

The guidelines allow kindergarten hybrid learning to continue, along with hybrid learning for other vulnerable kids, like special education students. But further expanding hybrid learning is off-limits for now.

Spolar said Evergreen is doing all it can to keep things as safe and healthy as possible. But the next step: bringing all elementary students back, planned for mid-October, is on hold.

“At this point best case scenario is the numbers start going down immediately and stay in that moderate category - it will be the end of October, or the first week of November, that we will revamp and get ready to go,” said Spolar.

And that’s the soonest - if the numbers come down. And that's up to all of us to make happen, so schools can really reopen.

“When in person school happens, we want it to be as successful,” said Krager.