Guidance for Schools and Youth Activities
Schools in Washington state are required to adhere to the Washington State Department of Health K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-2022 School Year, and will be required to offer a full-time in-person learning option for all students for the 2021-2022 school year. A layered approach is important to successfully provide in-person learning in schools while limiting transmission of COVID-19 in the school setting. This includes a combination of masking, distancing, ventilation, testing, and staying home when symptomatic. Vaccine is available for ages 12 and up at this time.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or who are symptomatic will need to isolate away from others, and those identified as close contacts will need to quarantine from school and all other activities, according to CDC Quarantine and Isolation guidelines. Schools and school districts may have more restrictive quarantine and isolation policies, but are not able to be less restrictive.
Governor Inslee Proclamation 20-09.4
Schools must comply with:
- The Department of Health’s requirements for K-12 schools
- The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s COVID-19 guidance
- The Department of Labor & Industries’ requirements and guidance, including, but not limited to, those for preventing COVID-19
Click each question to learn more
Guidance for Parents, Caregivers, and Guardians
Guidance for Childcare
- Child Care, Youth Development, and Day Camps During the COVID-19 Outbreak – English (DOH)
- Child Care, Youth Development, and Day Camps During the COVID-19 Outbreak (awaiting DOH update) – Spanish (DOH)
Guidance for K-12
Guidance for School Sports and other activities
Guidance for Higher Education
June 30, 2021 – Gov. Jay Inslee updated the existing emergency order addressing institutions of higher education, Proclamation 20-12.3. The updates clarify the requirements for fully vaccinated campuses and for campuses that are not fully vaccinated. The order goes into effect on July 1, 2021, and will remain in effect until rescinded or otherwise amended.
- BFHD Cover Your Cough 8.5×11.pdf – English
- BFHD Cover Your Cough 8.5×11.pdf – Spanish
- BFHD Cover Your Cough 11×17 – English
- BFHD Worried About Flu or Coronavirus (Superhero) 8.5×11.pdf – English
- BFHD Worried About Flu or Coronavirus (Superhero) 11×17.pdf – English
- BFHD Worried About Flu or Coronavirus (Superhero)11×17.pdf – Spanish
Additional materials available on BFHD Posters and Graphics page.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How does the Health District make decisions on in-person learning recommendations for schools in Benton and Franklin Counties?
Benton-Franklin Health District utilizes state guidelines in DOH’s Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as local data and input from schools and community partners. The state guidelines specify that:
“The decision to resume or expand in-person learning is complex and requires weighing both risks and benefits to children, staff, their families, and the broader community. With regards to COVID-19, DOH recommends that local leaders consider COVID-19 activity level (i.e., case rates, percent test positivity, trends, etc.) as well as the educational, social and emotional benefits of in-person learning for students.”
Schools had to close in the spring at lower numbers. How can it be safe to provide in-person learning now?
The decision to close schools in the spring was not based on the number of cases. In the spring, the country didn’t know a lot about COVID-19 and how it spreads. We now know more about how COVID-19 spreads so schools can be better prepared to limit transmission. We also have important tools like mandatory face coverings and physical distancing which have been effective in reducing transmission. We also have not seen evidence of transmission in the school setting, particularly when safety measures are being implemented.
I, or my child, have medical conditions that put us at higher risk for COVID-19 and/or I don’t feel safe sending them to school.
BFHD continues to recommend that people at higher risk for serious illness with COVID-19 work remotely or continue distance learning. Schools are determining how to continue to offer distance learning options, so families can make choices. This School Decision-Making Tool for Parents, Caregivers, and Guardians from the CDC can help families make decisions between in-person and distance learning.
Why didn’t BFHD wait to make the recommendation until the state metric had been met for a longer period of time?
Making the recommendation now gives school districts time to take additional active steps to prepare to reopen for in-person hybrid learning. The Health District will continue to work with school districts on reopening as safely as possible. In order to be able to reopen at any date for in-person hybrid learning, schools and school districts must still meet the requirements outlined by OSPI and the DOH for COVID-19 precautions.
Why does the state recommend begin in-person learning with elementary students?
DOH recommends that schools consider prioritizing elementary students for in-person learning, since many schools and districts around the state cannot feasibly bring all students back while adhering to 6-ft distancing. In this case, students with the highest need for in-person learning should return first. This also gives schools a chance to “phase in” in-person services with fewer students if schools feel this is needed. The hybrid models proposed by some of our local schools, which also accommodate middle and high school students, are another option the Health District supports. School districts will need to make decisions on this, based on their capacity, to adhere to the safety measures outlined in the DOH guidance, and to coordinate with the Health District on monitoring for cases and outbreaks within the school setting.
What is the definition of a “close contact”?
A close contact is defined by the CDC as “Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
* Individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). Data are limited, making it difficult to precisely define “close contact;” however, 15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition for contact investigation. Factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity (closer distance likely increases exposure risk), the duration of exposure (longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), whether the infected individual has symptoms (the period around onset of symptoms is associated with the highest levels of viral shedding), if the infected person was likely to generate respiratory aerosols (e.g., was coughing, singing, shouting), and other environmental factors (crowding, adequacy of ventilation, whether exposure was indoors or outdoors). Because the general public has not received training on proper selection and use of respiratory PPE, such as an N95, the determination of close contact should generally be made irrespective of whether the contact was wearing respiratory PPE. At this time, differential determination of close contact for those using fabric face coverings is not recommended.
Health Officer Letters
- BFHD Health Officer Letter Regarding Updated Quarantine Guidance (May 3, 2021)
- BFHD Health Officer Recommendation (March 29, 2021)
- BFHD Health Officer Recommendation (Jan. 12, 2021)
- BFHD Health Officer Recommendation (Nov. 19, 2020)
- BFHD Health Officer Recommendation (Oct. 13, 2020)
- BFHD Health Officer Recommendation on Reopening Schools (Sept. 14, 2020)
- BFHD Schools Reopening Statement.pdf