Wahkiakum schools deal with covid cases


November 26, 2020

By Diana Zimmerman

On Nov. 16, Wahkiakum School District learned that an individual at the school had tested positive for covid-19. On Monday, they learned that a second person, a member of the same tight cohort, had tested positive, as had a close personal contact who is not at the school.

The district has posted a statement on their website, which says that both individuals from the school district are in self-quarantine, are symptomatic, and that the few people who had close contact during the potential infectious period have been contacted and are also isolating.

“The health department and the school district have worked closely over the past 24 hours and have determined that there is a very low chance of further transmission within the school district outside of this specific cohort. Because of the stringent measures in place within the school district and the fact that both persons were part of a tight cohort on top of the extensive procedures the staff has in place to ensure a safe environment, Wahkiakum School District will remain open and continue to serve kids on campus,” the statement continued.

“Some families have opted to return to remote learning, but the school will remain open for in person learning, for the students who don’t have that option,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said. “We’re getting the benefit from the tight cohort, it hasn’t spread to the rest of the school.”

Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff addressed the first confirmed case during a general call about covid-19 on Friday.

“I want to be clear on where Wahkiakum School District is at,” Bischoff said. “We worked very hard in advance, spending hundreds of hours this summer to get the school district set up to operate safely, knowing that we would probably have another wave this winter. We’re teaching kids in very tight pods, trying to make sure that those cohorts stay true. We put in a bunch of hand-washing sinks, and when I say we, Superintendent Brent Freeman needs to get credit for this, because he worked his butt off. We put in temperature scanners for when kids come in the doors, all those things, social distancing, wearing masks all the time, those things have really helped Wahkiakum schools stay of out this.

"With the one case we have in the school, that pod is small, and we may get a couple more cases out of there, but we don’t think it will have further implications at the school. And that is because of all the work we’ve done to get that set up.”

“We talk a lot, many, many times during the week,” he continued. “We feel like we are watching very closely, because the numbers are getting staggering and we don’t want to put the kids at risk. We feel like with what we’ve got, we can continue at least for now to keep the schools open safely.”

Naselle schools have closed, Bischoff pointed out, and Longview schools have decided not to go in person at least until the end of the year.

“They haven’t done any of the work at the other school districts,” he said. “So they aren’t doing all the things to keep themselves open that Wahkiakum has done to this point. I know people are concerned. Is it safe to stay open? We don’t feel it’s any more dangerous now than it was to open in the first place. We made it 10 -11 weeks, and we’ve had one case come out of the school. That’s a pretty good track record. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.”

“Do as many things as you can, as correctly as you can, and let the overall product protect you,” Bischoff said. “That is the mentality that Brent has had at the school, and we certainly agree with and think is working pretty well.”


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