Prescott schools (copy)

A Prescott classroom shows the distance needed for in-person learning, which the school had been using until Wednesday. On Thursday the district is returning to distance learning due to a staff member testing positive for COVID-19.

The Prescott School district will pause its hybrid schedule and return to distance learning effective Thursday, Superintendent Justin Bradford announced.

The decision, Bradford said, is based on a staff member testing positive for COVID-19. Bradford said the person had contact with “several” other employess, all of whom are now under a 14-day quarantine.

“Following procedures and having them quarantine, like they should, gives us enough of a staff shortage that we can’t run the school,” Bradford said. “I had listed several scenarios with my staff in which we would close. One of them was if we had too many staff out sick. That’s what prompted this.”

The district opened the school year using remote learning before switching to a hybrid schedule on Oct. 5.

Bradford said the school will remain in distance learning at least through winter break.

Though it would be possible for staff to return sooner if they don’t show symptoms or test positive after the quarantine, Bradford said that due to current conditions in the county it makes sense to stay in distance learning through the end of December.

“By the time we get everyone back who was potentially exposed, we’d only have a short time before Christmas break,” Bradford said. “Not wanting to be moving back and forth between distance learning and a hybrid schedule, combined with our extremely high numbers in the county, I felt the safest option was to say we’re going to push it all the way until Jan. 6.”

He said the district will reassess school opening plans at the Dec. 17 school board meeting.

“This gives us a little breathing room and some time to get comfortable back in remote learning,” Bradford said. “We’ll see where everything is at. We’ll see where our staff is. We’ll see what the numbers are in Walla Walla County.”

The Prescott School District is one of two districts in the Valley — the other being Waitsburg —that has been using an AA/BB hybrid schedule. Other districts using hybrid learning have used an morning/afternnon format.

Like the AM/PM format, the AA/BB schedule breaks the student body into two groups. But rather than one group attending school in the mornings and the other in the afternoons, the AA/BB schedule has one group follow a full-day schedule on Mondays and Tuesdays while the other group attends on Thursdays and Fridays.

This allows staff to perform extra cleaning of the school on Wednesdays.

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Jeremy Burnham can be reached at jeremyburnham@wwub.com or 509-551-8896.

Reporter

Jeremy Burnham covers education and Columbia County for the Union-Bulletin. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University, where he studied journalism, and is an Eastern Eagle fanatic.