NASELLE — The Naselle-Grays River Valley School District, which had announced a two-week closure of in-person learning following three positive covid tests among staff, extended the closure through Jan. 11 due to the spiking of cases throughout Pacific County.

The district made the announcement in a Nov. 24 letter to parents and guardians, after the Ocean Beach School District and others in the county had made similar announcements.

The three staff who tested positive over two weeks ago have all recovered and returned to work, Superintendent Lisa Nelson said. Close contacts were quarantined for two weeks, but all tested negative. But the overall severity of the current wave made the district hold off on a return to in-person schooling.

This school year, the state has allowed local control of decisions on in-classroom learning, while providing a set of non-binding guidelines. The NGRV District opened the school year with a hybrid approach, splitting its classes into two groups which could each attend in person two days per week.

At the time, Pacific County as a whole had a caseload above 75 new cases per 100,000, the recommended threshold for in-person learning. However, Naselle itself, along with nearby Wahkiakum County, was at a very low level. Therefore, in consultation with local medical authorities, they adopted the hybrid policy. But the current ongoing spike in Pacific County put the county at over 800 cases per 100,000 last week, prompting the District to change course.

“Late last week, Dr. Steven Krager — the public health official who advises Pacific County — recommended that all Pacific County schools immediately shift into fully remote learning,” the District said in the Nov. 24 letter. “[T]he recent rise in covid cases across our county far exceeds the metric used by the Washington Department of Health for keeping schools open. At the current time, the county health system is overwhelmed by the recent surge in covid cases and is struggling to keep up with the demands for testing and contact tracing.”

The letter acknowledged the challenges for students, adding “We are also hoping to devise ways to bring some of our highest-need students to campus to the degree that we can safely do so.” Nelson said Monday that the District is still working on those plans.

Correction

Justin Laine is Naselle’s interim principal. A recent article referred to Principal Stephen Doyle, but he has left the district.

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