Amidst a growing number of COVID-19 cases in Seattle, Lakeside was set to become one of the first schools in the region to reopen for in-person instruction. However, on Friday, Oct. 16, the Lakeside community was informed that Lakeside wouldn’t be reopening on Oct. 26 for blended learning as had been planned. With concerns about students’ mental health and the quality of learning from remote instruction, why did Lakeside decide to postpone reopening?
A primary reason was the rising number of cases in both Washington and King County. COVID-19 Health Coordinator Bryan Smith mentioned in an email on Oct. 19 that the case rate in the ZIP codes where students and teachers live “was about 55 infections per 100k residents in late September and now it has spiked to 93 infections per 100k.” Possible reasons for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases include an outbreak at the University of Washington from the end of September; the loosening of restrictions on restaurants, movie theaters, and alcohol sale; and “COVID fatigue,” the growing general unwillingness to stay in quarantine. It should be noted that Lakeside students have thus far stayed safe from the virus. As of October 16, Lakeside has conducted 1,345 COVID-19 tests since August, all of which have come back negative. However, the Washington State Department of Health “strongly recommends” that schools in areas with more than 75 infections per 100,000 residents remain in remote learning.
Reopening the school will necessitate many additional safety measures that haven’t been used before. At school, students will use the Trace contact tracing app and are required to perform daily health screenings and report them using the Magnus Health website. Another reason that Lakeside decided not to open in October is that “few families are filling out the Magnus daily health screenings and few students have downloaded the Trace app for contact tracing.” While using Trace and Magnus Health wasn’t required until reopening, students were told to “not wait until the day before school begins to complete this task as it is incredibly important that both the Magnus Health app and the Trace app is working properly for your student before they are allowed to be on campus for hybrid learning.” Thus, family readiness was considered when administrators made the decision not to reopen.
Lakeside administrators chose to prioritize the safety of students, faculty, and their families over the desire to reopen for in-person instruction. Administrators hope to make another decision on reopening in the middle of November, and should case numbers flatten out, Lakesiders could be returning to school again in December.