Peninsula School District reverts to virtual learning due to COVID-19 case spike

VIDEO: School district that returned to in-person learning goes back to remote learning

One month after Peninsula School District returned to in-person learning, it’s reversing course and going entirely remote once again.

School officials blame a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases combined with recommendations from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

“Our teachers were really feeling their students were thriving, and they were excited about having them come back to campus,” said Dan Gregory, Peninsula School District assistant superintendent.

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More than 800 kindergarten and first grade students returned to class on Sept. 28.

However, since then, COVID-19 cases have been climbing. Pierce County’s been in the high-activity range since Oct. 7, which means there are more than 75 cases per 100,000 people.

Currently, the county is well above that. Monday’s rate was 132.8. The health officer recommends children learn remotely.

“We feel as though we need to follow that guidance,” said Gregory.

Gregory said the district knew reverting to virtual learning could be a possibility but hoped safety measures would keep children in class.

The Peninsula School District has had no confirmed coronavirus cases connected to its schools, and Gregory said more than 70% of families surveyed want their children in school.

“I really feel sorry for the kids because it’s hard on them transitioning from home, back to school, to home,” said mother Detrice Bostic.

Bostic’s son, Ashton, was getting in the back-to-school groove. He started kindergarten this year.

“He’s upset because he’s just now made friends,” she said.

Nov. 2′s virtual learning is his only choice.

Learning remotely is what third grade student Dylan has been doing. His parents, Kody and Katie Russell, said he’s been thriving, but they feel for families facing last-minute changes.

“We personally do not believe in the yo-yoing,” said Katie Russell.

“This pandemic is stressful, but what the school board can do is reduce our stress by creating something predictable, saying, ‘This is what it’s going to look like, and this is how we’re going to make plans. And until January, no kids will be in the classroom.’ Parents can plan around that,” said Kody Russell.

They believe the school district could’ve warned parents further ahead in time.

“Dr. Chen put these guidelines out, and he gave them 26 days' notice that by Oct. 26, if cases continue to rise, children will have to be put back in remote learning. Twenty-six days — and our school district did nothing,” said Katie Russell.

Peninsula School District officials said it’ll work closely with the health department to determine when it can safely reopen, but that will take at least four to six weeks.

When it reopens, it plans to bring back in-person classes from kindergarten through second grade.