Spokane schools urged to cancel or delay spirit games as COVID-19 rates soar, while one school goes temporarily remote

<p><p>Rising COVID-19 cases are forcing schools to reconsider three popular high school spirit games and one campus to temporarily go remote.</p></p><p><p>On Tuesday, the Spokane Regional Health District urged schools to cancel or postpone large events until case rates stabilize. Those include upcoming high school spirit games: the “Rubber Chicken,” between Ferris and Lewis and Clark; the “Groovy Shoes” between Shadle Park and North Central; and the “Stinky Sneaker” between Central Valley and University.</p></p><p><p>On its website, the SRHD cited “extremely high COVID-19 transmission rates” as a deterrent to hold those events next week as scheduled.</p></p><p><p>“Large events and gatherings provide an opportunity for multiple people to become infected,” the SRHD said. “In this environment, large school events could result in a surge of cases concentrated in K-12 schools within a single community or district resulting in:</p></p><p><ul><li>A huge strain on school testing resources, contact tracing and school nurse activities</li><li>Increased student absences</li><li>Staffing shortages</li><li>School closures”</li></ul></p><p><p>Meanwhile, rising COVID metrics are forcing an immediate move to remote learning at Gonzaga Preparatory School, families were told Tuesday.</p></p><p><p>According to a letter sent to families, remote learning at the high school will begin on Wednesday. School officials said they plan to return to in-person learning on Jan. 24.</p></p><p><p>The change was forced by soaring rates of COVID and other illnesses, with 30% of students directly affected, the email said.</p></p><p><p>“We believe that this decision will give our students the best educational experience and provide them the opportunity to finish the semester strong,” the letter continued. <span class=”print_trim”>“We do not take this decision lightly, and want to affirm our commitment to providing an exceptional college preparatory, holistic, Jesuit education.”</span></p></p><p><p>At the same time, two of Spokane County’s largest districts are seeing record-breaking numbers.</p></p><p><p>The COVID-19 dashboard posted Tuesday by the Central Valley School District showed 291 positive tests in the previous 14 days, including 48 at University High School.</p></p><p><p>Numbers were even higher at the Mead School District, which reported 468 students and staff out for COVID-related reasons in the previous 10 days. However, some of those cases are from winter break, according to the district website.</p></p><p><p>Mead also announced that it is halting athletic competition until it receives more testing supplies in support of its “Test to Stay” and athletic-testing programs.</p></p><p><p>Beginning Wednesday, athletic competitions and practices will be put on hold until supplies arrive. Symptomatic students are also being asked to stay home unless they can provide proof of a negative test from outside the school.</p></p><p><p>On Monday, the Mead school board discussed adding incentives for substitute teachers, including higher pay and a waiver of vaccination requirements.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Public Schools officials were unable Tuesday to provide absentee numbers not only from this week, but from last Thursday and Friday.</p></p><p><p>Superintendent Adam Swinyard said Tuesday that most schools have student and staff absentee rates of between 10% and 20%.</p></p><p><p>“We’re experiencing many of the same challenges of other districts,” Swinyard said. “It varies across the district, depending on the school.”</p></p>