by Bryan Smith, director of experiential education/COVID-19 health and safety officer
Earlier this week, the Seattle Times reported that King County should plan on being moved back to the second phase of Washington’s three-phase COVID-19 reopening plan. The potential backslide comes as case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise in King County and statewide, amid what Gov. Jay Inslee last week called the state’s fourth wave of the pandemic.
As more and more people in the Lakeside community are vaccinated, I know it’s easy for some families and students to feel like — we’ve got this. And while there are some reasons to feel confident, we all need to continue to take seriously the health and safety protocols that are in place. That includes not only Lakeside’s health and safety protocols, but those laid out by the state.
We are concerned, not only by the few cases we have had in the Lakeside community over the last two weeks, but by stories we’ve heard about off-campus activities that involve large groups of students who are unmasked and potentially putting themselves at risk. We understand that “pandemic fatigue” is real and there is an intense longing to get back to normalcy as soon as possible.
Our goal is to get our community to the end of the year safely, support students during their final projects and exams, and have our annual celebrations like prom, baccalaureate, Senior Surprise Day, 8th grade graduation, and the Class of 2021 commencement. If we let down our guard now and face potential viral spread in our community, all of these celebratory events are at risk of being cancelled. Athletics will shut down and Lakeside would need to finish the school year remotely. No one wants to go back to these restrictions, and it would certainly be a disappointing end to the year.
Thankfully, our older students have become eligible to be vaccinated, which leads us closer to ending the year in a positive and celebratory way. While our younger students (ages 10-15) are waiting for vaccine eligibility, it is incredibly important that all students — including students who are vaccinated — continue to follow Lakeside health and safety protocols. For the rest of this school year, we will continue with weekly COVID-19 testing for all students, require masks while on campus, and keep students physically distant. This will be true for all students, whether or not they are vaccinated.
It’s important for us all to remember that a significant number of families have only recently sent their students back to campus. We want those families to continue to feel confident in their decision. Our goal is to do what is best for the entire community so we can stay safe and finish the year successfully.
We are making one change in our protocols, starting today: Students who have been vaccinated and reached the 14-day post-vaccine threshold will no longer need to quarantine if they travel out of state. Review the updated traveling and gathering guidelines here. Please note that these guidelines, because they are based on the phases of Healthy Washington: Road Map to Recovery, may need to shift again next week if King County returns to Phase 2.
To recap, here are ways that families can help keep our community healthy and safe:
- If your student is eligible for a vaccine, please schedule them for a vaccine as soon as possible. See more below on places students ages 16 and up can be vaccinated. Student absences due to vaccinations will be excused.
- Have your family — and particularly your Lakeside student — choose “safer activities” for off-campus activities as defined by the CDC in this helpful chart.
- Continue to follow all Lakeside health and safety on-campus protocols.
- Don’t put our community at risk for viral spread: it could lead to end-of-year events being cancelled.
Scheduling vaccine appointments
As of April 15, all people in Washington age 16 and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. We highly encourage all students who are eligible to receive their vaccine as soon as possible. Student absences for vaccination are excused absences. By having more students in our community get vaccinated, we will be one step closer to a return to a normal school experience.
Public Health - Seattle & King County has shared: “A large number of new COVID-19 vaccine appointments are open now at our Auburn Outlet Mall and Kent ShoWare clinics for anyone age 16 and older. To request an appointment, visit kingcounty.gov/covid/registration. Walk-in vaccination (no appointment required) is also available Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., while supplies last.”
The City of Seattle has shared: “If you are 16 or older, live or work in King County, and have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccination, you can book your first and second doses today at any of the four City of Seattle-affiliated fixed vaccination sites at the Lumen Field Event Center, at North Seattle College, in Rainier Beach, and in West Seattle.” A link to book an appointment is here: seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19/vaccinations.
Changes to Upper School classrooms
With the recent update from the CDC about social distancing in classrooms, we will no longer need to split some Upper School classes up between two rooms, with teachers moving between them. Students in the class are socially distanced four feet (the CDC recommends at least three-foot distance). This change affects four classrooms located in Allen-Gates Hall and Bliss Hall. Students in affected classes have been updated by their teachers.
Exploring fully reopening
In the last few weeks, we explored if we would be able to bring students back onto campus in any larger groupings, given the CDC guidelines about social distancing in classrooms referenced above. After a conversation with our Medical Advisory Board and reviewing all the implications with program directors and department heads, we made the decision to not fully reopen campus this spring. We would not be able to maintain the recommended social distancing in classrooms, and, with the rise in COVID-19 cases in King County, the potential risk was too high.
We do feel very confident about fully reopening in September, and we have ordered the equipment and supplies to make it happen.
Thank you again for everything you are doing to keep every member of our community safe and healthy. Let’s all keep working together.
Director of Experiential Education Bryan Smith serves as Lakeside’s COVID-19 health and safety officer. You can reach him at email@example.com or 206-440-2833