Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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Evergreen district announces plans to bring kids back to classrooms

By , Columbian staff writer

Evergreen Public Schools is making plans to have all elementary students back for in-person learning by Feb. 1, as outlined Monday by Superintendent Mike Merlino.

The district announced three dates for when students will begin full-day in-person learning twice a week in groups of no more than 15 students per classroom. They are: Jan. 19 for kindergartners and first-graders, Jan. 25 for second- and third-graders, and Feb. 1 for fourth- and fifth-graders if transmission is limited, per new state guidance.

On Jan. 19, the district will increase the number of middle and high school students on-campus who need in-person academic assistance. With additional students returning, the district said it will begin increasing hours and calling back classified employees from furlough status.

Since September, the county’s largest district has welcomed small groups of kindergarten students and students deemed in most need of in-person support services across all grades when, at the time, state metrics considered anything higher than 75 new cases per 100,000 population over two weeks as “high risk.”

But last month, Gov. Jay Inslee changed the metrics for schools to encourage a return of students to in-person education. Under the new guidance, districts are recommended to gradually reintroduce students in small groups of 15 for elementary ages in counties with more than 350 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over two weeks. Clark County remained in the “high” phase with 386 cases per 100,000, as of last week.

If Clark County COVID-19 numbers continue to drop, Merlino said, middle and high school students could begin to return to in-person learning in February and March.

“We are excited to be able to open our schools to more students — something we haven’t been able to do since last March — and taking a step forward in meeting more students’ educational needs,” Merlino said. “We remain committed to return students and staff safely to our school buildings as quickly and appropriately as possible.”

Evergreen joins Camas, Ridgefield, Washougal and Woodland in announcing tentative in-person learning plans for elementary schools. Woodland welcomes back students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade for hybrid learning starting today.

Battle Ground Public Schools’ Board of Directors was meeting Monday for a special meeting to discuss new state guidance on in-person learning.