PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Kindergarteners in Clark County now get a chance to see their school and other students in-person for the very first time.
Nine Clark County school districts are moving forward with bringing small groups of kindergarten students back to school in the next few weeks. Educators say that having no classroom experience makes remote learning incredibly difficult for this age group. The school districts are: Vancouver, Washougal, Ridgefield, La Center, Hockinson, Green Mountain, Evergreen, Camas, and Battle Ground.
“From an equity and justice lens, we need to support those youngest learners, or gaps will increase as we prepare these young students for the transition to the K-5 experience,” said Vancouver School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Webb.
The decision to bring in groups or pods of 10 or fewer kindergartners, which was announced Monday afternoon by the school district superintendents in partnership with Clark County Public Health, “is safe and aligns with the state guidance for reopening schools.” Everyone will be required to wear masks, socially distance, and frequently wash hands.
The county’s top health official said the youngest students pose a smaller threat of COVID-19 transmission.
“These kids are far less likely than older kids to be transmitting disease,” said Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick. “We think this can be done safely. We are only talking about Kindergarten right now.”
The decision to go back to in-person learning is up to individual school districts. The Evergreen School District actually started doing this five weeks ago with their Kindergarteners.
“I really appreciate our teachers because they have gone the extra mile in making it happen, because you are teaching kids in school and working with kids remotely as well,” said Evergreen Public Schools Superintendent Michael Melino. “It is a lot of work and they’ve really stepped up.”
So far, there have been no reports of COVID-19 cases in the classes at Evergreen.
However, making this decision was not easy, as the county is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases and a rise in hospitalizations. Health officials who track the source of spread say schools don’t appear to be high on the list of problem spots.
No decision about in-person education for other grade levels in Clark County have been made at this time.