Schools and COVID-19 new year: Spokane area schools play waiting game with omicron variant

<p><p>For most local school districts, navigating the snowy roads took priority Monday over the COVID-19 pandemic as students returned to classes after the holiday break.</p></p><p><p>Though families worried about the spread of the omicron variant, few districts posted COVID-19 updates. However, one that did – Mead – showed sharply higher numbers on Monday.</p></p><p><p>Three weeks ago, the district of 11,000 students reported 45 positive tests among students and staff; on Monday, that number was 77.</p></p><p><p>The area’s two largest districts, Spokane and Central Valley, have not updated their numbers since Dec. 20. Also neither district provided information Monday on absences.</p></p><p><p>However, Central Valley spokesperson Marla Nunberg said the district had an increase in COVID testing Monday “and therefore an increase in positive cases in correlation as well.”</p></p><p><p>“Last week was limited testing, mostly athletes,” Nunberg said.</p></p><p><p>All districts in Spokane and Kootenai counties returned Monday to in-person learning – in contrast to Seattle, which closed in an effort to conduct universal rapid testing of staff and students in response to growing concern over the spread of the omicron variant.</p></p><p><p>Seattle schools are expected to resume in-person on Tuesday.</p></p><p><p>Meanwhile, Spokane Public Schools is receiving testing kits from the Department of Health for the district’s “Test to Stay” program, a spokesperson said. When additional test kits are needed, the Spokane district’s Health Services Department reaches out to the state to request additional test kits, the district said.</p></p><p><p>At Central Valley, Nunberg said the district is testing at each school, “and more were utilized today because of the break,” but not to the extent that Seattle is seeing because they are encouraging all students to test before returning to school.</p></p><p><p>“We did not require it, just continue to offer it to any staff, students and their families,” Nunberg added.</p></p>