A Lynden Christian Elementary School boy tosses a cheese ball toward principal Don Van Maanen’s head full of shaving cream last week Friday. The goofiness was to celebrate a “perfect sticker day,” meaning “all students had their COVID stickers on [from home], so we didn’t have to make any calls,” Van Maanen said.  (Courtesy photo/Lynden Christian School)

Schools have not transmitted COVID, their leaders say

WHATCOM ­— Three local public school districts moved to the hybrid mode — half on-campus, half still remote learning — for their middle and high school students this week.

Start-up was Monday, Feb. 1, for Meridian and Ferndale and Tuesday, Feb. 2, for Mount Baker.

They join the Blaine, Lynden, Lynden Christian and Nooksack Valley systems in having students at least part-time in-person in classrooms across all levels now in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some of that ramp-up has been within the past month, although LC has been fully in-person with safeguards since Sept. 1.

Meridian Superintendent James Everett reported in his Jan. 15 online message that to that point — while being in-person since September at Irene Reither Elementary School and with some high-needs students at the middle and high schools — “we have not experienced a school transmission of COVID-19.”

Superintendent Paul Bootsma could say the same for 1,100-student Lynden Christian — still no transmission there.

“We have been really blessed and challenged through this season of life and Christian education, and we see God’s providence and grace leading the way through it,” he said.

School superintendents had regular consultation with county public health officer Dr. Greg Stern in December and January, even as general population transmission rates rose in Whatcom, and they heard that schools in Washington have shown remarkable success in preventing or combatting COVID-19, Everett said.

In a letter to schools,  Stern said the Whatcom County Health Department “does not see a need to scale back in-person learning for whole grades or schools.”

In turn, school adminstrators “understand the benefits of in-person learning to our students and their families,” Everett said in his post.  

Nooksack Valley resumed in-person learning for the middle and high school on Jan. 12. Lynden did so on Jan. 11.

In announcing the NV plan already in December, Superintendent Mark Johnson said “there has been 0.0% COVID transmissions in schools around the county and state.”

While there is always a possibility of a positive case entering a school, “it hasn’t readily spread once there,” Johnson said. Nooksack Valley has had a positive case in each of its schools, brought in by students, but had no transmission. “Other districts, in counties with much higher infection rates, have also experienced 0.0% transmission.

“Our protocols and procedures to mitigate transmission have worked. In fact, the county health department has praised our work in this area, including our contact tracing protocols,” Johnson said in his post.