Since the beginning of the school year, at least nine employees of the Federal Way Public Schools district have tested positive for COVID-19, the district said this week.
The 2020-21 FWPS school year began on Sept. 8 and the number of cases stems from information available as of Wednesday, Oct. 14.
The Federal Way district said as of Wednesday, five of the nine cases are current infections. Those staff members are quarantining and have been instructed not to return to any school site until they have recovered. The most recent virus case was reported to the district on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
The employees with positive COVID-19 cases include two certificated staff and seven classified staff members.
Certificated employees include teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, school psychologists and other certificated staff. Classified staff are those that are not certificated such as clerical staff, para-educators, security, transportation, nutrition services, maintenance and operations, and other classified staff.
“For staff members who report a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, they’re asked to remain home, consult with their medical provider, and quarantine before returning to work,” said Kassie Swenson, chief of communications and strategy for FWPS.
The district follows direction from Seattle – King County Public Health regarding decision making, next steps, and health safety protocols for any potential or confirmed virus cases, she said. FWPS also follows Public Health’s lead on communication regarding potential exposure and all health privacy laws, including HIPAA.
Specific school sites where the individuals with positive cases work are not available to the public due to privacy laws, Swenson said.
FWPS is engaged in a fully virtual learning model through December due to high infection rates in the Federal Way area, the district announced on Oct. 7.
Teaching virtually from their classrooms — compared to teaching from home — or visiting a school site is up to the discretion of each educator, Swenson noted.
In addition to a limited capacity of people per day at any FWPS site, the district has a strict health screening process in place prior to an individual’s entry to a site, which involves a health questionnaire and temperature check.
“If staff don’t pass the screening process, they are not to enter the building and must return home,” Swenson said. “Staff must also contact their supervisor and health care provider.”
Shannon McCann, the Federal Way Education Association union president, said the difference between online and in-person learning is now a choice between life and death.
“This sad news is further evidence that remote learning is the only option as we continue to experience high numbers in the greater Federal Way community,” McCann said. “It would’ve been far, far worse if we had any sort of face-to-face learning happening.”
McCann said the union is “truly haunted” by the national data showing virus-related deaths of both students and educators and that “any positive case is a wake-up call” for everyone to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
McCann said there is heightened concerned for the FWPS front office professionals due to difficulty of ventilation and social distancing if visitors come to school in their workspaces, along with navigating through national shortages on PPE, plexiglass, and other safety resources.
“We truly hope everyone does their part to stay safe and protect one another,” McCann said. “We need social solidarity now more than ever.”
Information on free COVID-19 testing in Federal Way and surrounding cities can be found at kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/testing.