Schools, health district work closely to bring students back to class

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash.– This week, three of the largest school districts in Eastern Washington announced a phased approach to bring back students for in-person learning. During a media briefing Thursday, superintendents for Central Valley and Spokane Public Schools District addressed the plan to move forward. The goal is to have kindergarten students in class on alternating schedules by the first week of October.

Here are four takeaways from Thursday’s briefing:

  • Spokane Regional Health District will guide school district decisions: Dr. Bob Lutz has been regularly updating school districts on cases and how that could impact students. He gave the go-ahead for kindergarten students to start returning to school with social-distancing and other measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This is not a reflection of public pressure. This is a function of working with data,” Dr. Lutz said. “Again, the Department of Health has been impressing upon us at the local level to follow the data with respect to bringing kids back to instruction. As I shared with you earlier, the incidence rate is very, very small with this population.”

School leaders say they will continue working closely with Dr. Lutz and the health district to ensure students have a safe return to in-person learning.


  • Schools will have social distancing measures in place, other health standards: District leaders emphasized the importance of taking steps to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings, conduct daily monitoring for symptoms, and maintain social distancing.


  • There is no hard timeline for when older students will return to school: On Thursday, school leaders acknowledged there are still some unknowns when it comes to reopening schools.  On that list is when exactly older kids will be back in class. School districts say they will regularly check-in with the health district to learn about case trends in the community. That will factor in to reopening schools for more students.

“As we move foward, that will be calibrated based on Dr. Lutz’s advice as to what is happening with cases and the advisability of moving more children back to in-person learning,” said Central Valley School Dist. Supt. Ben Small.


  • Community cases must drop more to ensure older students return to in-person learning: As of Thursday, there were 111.6 cases per 100,000 people in Spokane County. That exceeds the target number set by state officials for students to return to class. There was a recent surge in cases believed to be tied to large gatherings during the Labor Day Weekend.

“We, again, just want to encourage our community as a whole to follow the social distancing guidelines and requirements of wearing masks,” said SPS Supt. Dr. Adam Swinyard. “The more we work together and partner as a community in doing that, the quicker we will be able to return all of our students to in-person instruction.”


RELATED: West Valley School District plans to bring youngest students back to the classroom Oct. 5

Central Valley Kindergarteners to return to the classroom starting Oct. 5

Spokane Public Schools prepares for Kindergarteners to return to the classroom as soon as Oct. 7

Spokane health officer: Rise in cases is the Labor Day spike they feared