School board reviews covid-19 protocols


December 23, 2021

The Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors listened to a presentation by the Robotics Club, heard about the covid-19 contact tracing and testing program, learned about a new grant awarded to the school, and more on Tuesday.

Following an executive session for personnel evaluation, newly elected Director Bobbie Stefan took the oath of office with incumbents Shawn Merz and Sue O’Connor.

They moved to the robotics room for a robotics presentation and when they returned, Debbie Hansen spoke about the covid-19 contact tracing and testing program at Wahkiakum School District.

“ESD 112 looked virtually at all the testing programs throughout the region and they selected us as one of two programs that quite frankly, were the best programs out there,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said. “Debbie has been fantastic in this role, taken a huge load off what I used to have to do, and taken it up a notch to a much more professional program than what we had before.”

Wahkiakum School District provides testing from 8-10 a.m., Monday through Friday, and is available for anyone who works at the school, attends the school, or is a family member.

So far, they have administered 651 tests, Hansen said, with 16 positives.

“I believe 14 of those people were unvaccinated, and two were vaccinated,” Hansen said.

As of Friday, every athlete, coach, and trainer in a high contact sport like wrestling, basketball, and cheer will have to be tested three times a week.

When a test is positive, Hansen is notified. She begins contact tracing to determine all close contacts of the person, using a document provided by Wahkiakum Health and Human Services.

So far, Hansen said, no one has hung up on her or told her to go fly a kite.

They also use a flow chart provided by ESD 112 to determine who should be quarantined, or who can stay in school, as well as when someone can return to school.

An email alerts certain members of the staff who need to know who is in quarantine and for how long.

“That has worked seamlessly,” Hansen said. “We are trying to keep our kids safe, and keep them in school. It’s nice to be working for a cause that most everyone agrees upon. We might not agree how to get there, but keeping them safe, and keeping them in school is kind of the bottom line.”

She said they were also working closely with St. James Family Center, the health department, and the clinic in Cathlamet.

Freeman said that last year they had kids that were out for as long as two months, as the virus spread through families, but this year, depending on circumstances, they are able to get kids back to school sooner.

Freeman shared more anecdotes about the last year and spoke about the benefits of having and holding to standards during the pandemic.

“There is a wide range of application to standards,” Freeman said. “Those that don’t apply the standards right are going to ruin it for all of us. That’s not what we want. We’ve been meeting as superintendents and saying I know this is hard, but keep your fans and players wearing their mask, keep the kids in their assigned seats on the buses.”

Freeman said that the assigned seating had been beneficial in the past, when they didn’t have to send everybody home after a student riding the bus tested positive.

“We were able to send the person in the front, back, and on the side,” he said.

“Nobody likes being the mask police,” he continued. “There are some communities that have just given up, and are not going to do it. There is already an investigation into a couple schools. They are going to ruin it for everybody.”

“I hope we get better compliance around the state with this,” Freeman said. “We want a basketball tournament in Spokane. We want to see boys and girls Mules lifting trophies and cutting nets down.”

In other news, Freeman said that the district had been awarded $120,000 through Emergency Connectivity Funding. They purchased hot spots, service for the hot spots, more Chromebooks, and staff laptops. He was excited to tell the board that they were able to put routers on 12 buses, making them mobile hot spots.

“We send kids all over the place,” Freeman said. “Well now they can do their homework.”

The board approved Marc Niemeyer as the middle school assistant basketball coach. They also approved Garrett Radcliffe as a high school academic support para-educator, and Joshua Miller as a covid-19 test administrator.

After some discussion, the board decided that Shawn Merz would remain the chair. Paula Culbertson will be the vice chair, and Stefan will step into the role of legislative representative.


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