Spike in COVID cases hits schools in Oak Harbor

The district’s COVID dashboard reported a total of 147 cases in students and 25 in staff members.

Mirroring the trend of rising COVID-19 cases in Island County, Oak Harbor Public Schools are experiencing a wave in cases and the district is warning that more classroom closures may be ahead.

The school district’s COVID dashboard reported a total of 147 cases in students and 25 in staff members, as of Thursday afternoon.

Over the course of the 2021-2022 school year, the school district has reported a cumulative 320 cases of students and 49 of staff members.

Conor Laffey, the communication officer for Oak Harbor Public Schools, said Thursday afternoon that five classrooms at the Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center have been temporarily closed because of COVID.

Laffey explained that the school district developed criteria with Island County Public Health about what it takes to shut down a classroom. If four or more students test positive for COVID in a single class who have been connected only from classroom contact, that classroom would transition to remote learning.

Two classes from the Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center closed for one week due to a concentration of COVID cases that ended up being connected in the classroom. Three additional classrooms shuttered because of other cases occurring this week that resulted in students being identified as close contacts.

Laffey pointed out that since these students are not eligible for the vaccine, they are unvaccinated and must quarantine for the required 10 days. The school district does not currently have the capabilities to test all of the students to keep those affected classrooms open.

A classroom at Hillcrest Elementary also closed. Laffey said many of the students from that classroom are eligible to return to class on Tuesday.

An announcement regarding COVID from Oak Harbor Public Schools warned parents and guardians that they should brace themselves for more classroom closures. A temporary shift to remote learning may be possible if cases continue to increase, provided “staff absences become too high to provide in-person instruction.”

The announcement added that the school district will try to provide at least 24 hours of notice “before closing a school and transitioning to remote learning.”