After studying emerging data from other states, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) revised the metrics for when local school districts should consider bringing students back into school buildings,1 and comprehensive health and safety measures for how to resume once it is deemed safe.2 Schools must also follow guidance in Employer Health and Safety Requirements for School Scenarios.3
DOH also released guidance for making determinations on who, how, and when to test/screen students and staff.4 School districts are required to meet these health and safety measure before they can consider bringing students back into buildings:
After districts have the health and safety measures in place, DOH recommends they weigh both risks and benefits to children, staff, their families, and the broader community. In making these difficult decisions, school administrators should also engage staff and families of students at risk for severe COVID-19, families of students with disabilities, English language learners, students living in poverty, students of color, and families of young students to determine how to best meet the health and education needs of these students and the community.
Districts should consider rates and trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and test positivity in their community along with other health and education risks and benefits to children and their families:
1) Washington State Department of Health “Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic” (December 16, 2020)
2) Washington State Department of Health “K-12 Schools 2020-2021 Guidance” (December 16, 2020)
3) OSPI, DOH and Washington State Dept of Labor & Industries “Employer Health and Safety Requirements for School Scenarios” (September 30, 2020)
4) Washington State Department of Health “Washington State K-12 School Testing Guidance” (December 16, 2020)