The Washington State Department of Health and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) are relying on what's called the Decision Tree when it comes to determining in-class education this fall and beyond.

It was briefly mentioned in Gov. Inslee's press conference last week (Tuesday August 3) but not broken down into detail and many parents are not aware of it. Most do not, actually.

We have been able to obtain a copy of the memo outlying the tree. This shows the criteria being used. It reads in part:

Gov. Jay Inslee, Superintendent Chris Reykdal and the state Department of Health announced a “decision tree” framework  to help school districts determine how to resume learning this fall. The framework emphasizes that schools are not islands. Community transmission must be low in order for schools to reopen safely for in-person learning. This is difficult and uncharted territory – every other country that reopened its schools only did so when community transmission was low. 
Plans regarding school reopening are made by the local health jurisdiction and school district. Parents can find the most up-to-date information about their child’s school by contacting district or school administrators. 
DOH’s “decision tree” framework offers metrics based on three COVID-19 activity levels: 
  • >75 cases per 100,000 in 14 days is considered a high COVID-19 activity level for a community. At this level, DOH recommends distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning who need it most – such as children with disabilities. Sports and extra curricular activities should remain on pause.
  • 25–75 cases per 100,000 in 14 days is considered a moderate COVID-19 activity level. At this level, DOH recommends distance learning as described above, with gradual expansion of in-person education, beginning with elementary students. Younger students under the age of 10 benefit the most from in-person learning while also posing less risk for transmitting COVID-19 than older students. Most sports and extra curricular activities should remain on pause.
  • Below 25 cases per 100,000 in 14 days is considered a low COVID-19 activity level. At this level, DOH recommends full-time in-person learning for all elementary students and hybrid learning for middle and high school, eventually moving to in-person for middle and high school.

There is also the following line later in the memo, which outlines and clarifies who makes the ultimate call on whether schools are in-class or remote learning:

 "...All parties should remain aware that if a school’s opening to or continued operation of in-person learning poses an imminent public health threat to the community in the estimation of the local health officer, then that local health officer has the legal power and duty to direct or order an interruption of in-person learning (WAC 246-110-020). School administrators are obligated to cooperate with investigations, directives, and orders of the local health officer (WAC 246-101-420)."

The key phrase is "the estimation of the local health officer."   This would likely explain the letter sent by Dr. Amy Person to all the school districts in the BFHD jurisdiction, urging online school for the beginning of year.  This coming regardless of the numerous comments, surveys and other input from various parents in Districts in B-F Counties. Many of them had urged at least exploring even mixed options.

The WAC or legal codes-laws cited in that statement date (some of them) back as far as 2013, even 1991. Now these codes are being used as justification for the policies being used to open schools this fall. They also require schools to cooperate and work with public health officer/district when it comes to the management of outbreaks, cases etc.

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