School for several students in Klickitat County starts Aug. 25, and as the opening date approaches, local districts have recently released information regarding updated reopening procedures.

Much of what to expect this upcoming school year has been handed down in requirements made by the Washington Department of Health.

White Salmon Valley and Lyle School districts both released information related to upcoming reopening. Both are planning for 100% in-person learning.

School districts in Washington State will require facial coverings to be worn at all times when indoors. This applies to all students and staff, as well, when riding a bus, the driver and every rider will likewise be required to wear one. Only when people are eating or drinking can they remove their masks, according to DOH requirements.

Lyle School District Communications Officer Deb Stenberg wrote in a reopening letter to parents that “this is a safety requirement mandated by the state Department of Health, OSPI and the governor: Masking in schools is NOT a local decision. It is out of our hands.”

Students will not be required to wear masks outside at recess at both school districts.

“Therefore, in the cafeteria during breakfast and lunch service, students will be removing their masks,” wrote White Salmon Valley Superintendent Sean McGeeney. “DOH requires a minimum of three feet between every student during meals. However, I have tasked our school leaders to maximize space between students when unmasked, aiming to provide 6 feet between each student during meals, and when weather allows, we are planning to offer outdoor seating options.”

At this time, COVID-19 vaccinations will not be required for return to full-time education.

Some changes to operations this upcoming school year include the White Salmon school district’s lack of a requirement for families to sign an attestation form prior to coming to school. Students will not need to undergo a temperature screening when entering the building, according to the superintendent’s update on reopening procedures.

Screening will commence when a student displays symptoms, McGeeney said, and will also continue contact tracing, communicate accordingly if a student is exposed and direct quarantines if needed.

Building principals will have sent out emails to parents relating to building-specific guidelines, McGeeney said.

At Lyle School District, staff will greet students as they arrive and provide hand sanitizer and visually scanning students for signs of illness.

“Parents, as always, should keep their children home if they have any signs of illness, or be prepared to pick them up when the school calls later in the day,” Stenberg said.

Options for remote learning

McGeeney said the White Salmon Valley School District will not be providing an online learning option this year “if students can attend in-person.

“If families do not want students to attend in-person learning at school, they will have to transfer to a virtual program outside the district. The district will provide online learning to students due to classroom and school closures, if they were to occur,” McGeeney said

Stenberg said it is a state expectation for schools to reopen for in-person learning this year.

“We would have to have a change in requirements from the state — a combination of the State Health Department, Gov. Inslee and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) — to return to hybrid instruction,” she said.

She said parents would have options available to them for remote learning outside the school district, “but like most public schools in Washington, we don’t have the option of doing so without a reduction in state funding.”

That said, she said, the district is prepared to pivot quickly, with an awareness to current COVID-19 trends.

“We’re focused on staying flexible and adhering to the state’s requirements and guidelines, whatever they are,” said Lyle Superintendent Ann Varkados. “Ultimately, it’s about keeping kids safe.”