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We don’t decide when kids go back to school. We do help keep them safe.

Back-to-school time looks different this year. We’re here to help make sure it’s as safe as possible for students and staff.

As our 14-day average rate of COVID-19 cases declines in Pierce County, some public and private school districts are returning to in-person learning. The Department of Health’s decision tree allows districts to gradually bring students back to the classroom as COVID-19 activity moves from high to moderate to low.

The state’s latest guidance leaves those decisions to the school districts. Our role is to help the district find the safest plan to support student learning. That means we:

  • Answer districts’ questions and offer guidance.
  • Help develop testing programs.
  • Provide support in the event of COVID-19 cases or an outbreak in a school building.

Our role is to help public and private schools with state recommendations. If you have questions or concerns about your school’s reopening plans, contact the school and ask to speak with the COVID-19 safety coordinator.

Classrooms are reopening, but they’ll look different.

To keep students, staff and the community safe, classes will look a little different.

The state requires schools to provide learning spaces with physical distancing and increased ventilation. Classrooms and school buildings must be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Many schools will use a hybrid schedule, with half the class on site one day and the other half the next.

Students and staff must wear face coverings. They must also confirm they are healthy prior to coming to school or undergo health screenings once they arrive. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms must stay away from school buildings and should seek a COVID-19 test before they return.

All these extra steps helps keep schools safe.

Tests for school? Of course!

Our school testing pilot wrapped up at the end of 2020 and provided valuable information to schools as they decide about safer in-person learning.

During the pilot, we tested more than 4,000 students and staff and completed close to 10,000 rapid antigen tests. Only 1 out of every 491 antigen tests completed was positive after confirmation with a PCR test. That’s a positivity rate of 0.2%, which is promising news for schools, parents, their children and our community.

After the pilot, most Pierce County school districts chose some form of testing to help to identify COVID-19 cases early.

We offer free test kits to community partners, including schools. We help schools choose from one of several testing strategies. We’ve already provided more than 90,000 test kits to school partners this year.

Department of Health has followed this model and offered testing resources to more districts.

Disease investigation

Whenever a school finds a possible case of COVID-19, our contact tracers go to work. We call everyone who has either tested positive or who is a close contact of someone who has.

We work with each case to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible. For cases in schools, we ensure the school informs people possibly exposed and pass on guidance to keep themselves and others safe.

Supporting students and staff

Teachers and administrators should expect that everyone (students, families and staff) will have experienced some degree of anxiety and stress during remote learning.

For many students, physical distancing and being at home during COVID-19 has been challenging. Students may experience behavioral and emotional challenges, which could affect learning—and teaching.

You should:

  • Seek treatment if you need it.
  • Connect with others.
  • Join a support group if you need to connect with others who are suffering.
  • Seek mental health resources.

You can help make schools safe.

The fewer cases of COVID-19 we have in Pierce County, the safer our schools become. You can help!

Remember to:

We don’t make the decision about schools returning to in-person learning. But we want to do everything in our power to support their safe return. For more information and guidance, visit

A child reads a book in a classroom.