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Back-to-School Town Hall
Back-to-School Town Hall
Posted on 08/30/2021

Do you have questions on returning to school, what health and safety measures will be enforced, and how we plan to support student mental health?

Our Welcome Back Town Hall event scheduled Aug. 30 answered these questions and more.  District administrators discussed the latest health and safety requirements in addition to how our path to recovery will ensure a sense of belonging so that all students can excel. 

The 1-hour event recording can be accessed here.  In addition, the event chat Q&A’s are provided below:

     • Contract Tracing, Quarantining and Testing
     • Masks
     • Athletics
     • Class Sizes
     • Social-Emotional Wellness
     • Vaccinations
     • Learning
     • Curriculum
     • Music
     • Health and Safety Precautions
     • Meals
     • Recess
     • Physical Distancing
     • Transportation


Contract Tracing, Quarantining and Testing

Q: What are the protocols for students who have a classmate testing positive for COVID-19? Are students in that class having to quarantine at home and for how long? Will there be back up learning online to keep pace with course work?

A: The contact tracing RN team will interview the positive individual and/or parent depending on the student age to determine close contact per definition.  Additional contact tracing protocol will be followed and is situationally dependent. Once close contacts have been determined, those individuals' guardians will be notified and provided a timeline for return. Exposed students must quarantine at home for 14 days if unvaccinated. If the exposed student is vaccinated and not experiencing symptoms, the exposed vaccinated student does not need to quarantine, but is advised to wear a mask for 14 days, monitor their symptoms for 14 days, and seek PCR testing 3-5 days post last exposure.

Q: If my student is vaccinated and there is an outbreak, will they be required to quarantine?

A: Depends on the situation of exposure.  You will receive clear communication as it relates to your child's status and contact tracing path.

Q: Last year, two students were allowed to attend while symptomatically ill and were not asked to leave class to visit the nurse. One of those students later tested positive for COVID, exposing my child and others in the class. What precautions will be taken when a child arrives to school sick and clearly has symptoms?

A: Teachers/staff are skilled at assessing the overall health and well-being of students.  The COVID Compliance person will also be available to respond to students who appear to not be well, or who report not feeling well.

Q: If a child comes down with an illness, with COVID-like symptoms, what is the protocol for them being tested/coming back to school?

A: A student who becomes ill at school will be referred to the Health Room.  Each situation will be assessed by the Health Room staff with next steps communicated for return dates.

Q: Will there be temperature checks of our kids?

A: Temperature checks are not required at this time.

Q: What are the safety measures for identifying sick children in the school? Before entering or after in class?

A: Teachers and school staff are skilled at learning the habits and behaviors of their students.  When a child isn't feeling well, they will be cared for and talked to privately to assess their status.  Our Health Room staff stand ready to attend the needs of children not feeling well while they wait to be picked up by a caregiver if needed.

Q: What is the quarantine time, 3-5 days or 2 weeks?

A: Non-vaccinated individuals identified as a close contact must quarantine for 14 days. Vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine but to do the following:

  • • Wear a mask for 14 days
  • • Monitor symptoms for 14 days
  • • Seek PCR testing 3-5 days following a known exposure.  If the vaccinated individual tests positive, the individual must quarantine for 10 days. 

Q: What contact tracing procedures are in place for communicating exposure risk?

A: Our District website hosts a flow chart at this link:

Q: But temperature checks will allow for early detection before the infected student is around other children. If the child is in 1st or 2nd grade, there is no vaccination.

A: While the DOH guidance doesn't require temperature checks, caregivers can take their child's temperature before leaving for school for reassurance and baseline measurements.

Q: By sending the kids to the health room and then isolating, aren’t germs being spread in the health room?

A: The health room staff will do a quick assessment just outside the health room and determine proper treatment location.

Q: If your child has allergies all of a sudden, are you going to treat their absence as COVID and keep them out 14 days because they have symptoms?

A: All students who have a history of allergies will need a doctor’s note and a negative PCR test at the start of their symptoms to document their allergies. That way there is a known reason for their symptoms. As long as their symptoms do not deviate from their normal symptoms, they do not need to obtain another test or need to quarantine.

Q: What COVID testing is the district providing for students and/or staff to ensure everyone is safe - especially the highly dangerous staff who are getting exemptions from the vaccine?

A: We are awaiting guidance on this and will be discussing this with our labor groups (for staff).



Q: What is the protocol for students that show up to school without a mask?

A: We will use strategies to teach and reinforce the norm of face coverings and social distancing among students. OSPI strongly encourages districts and schools to use Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approaches to teach and reinforce compliance with face covering requirements.  More information on this can be accessed on page 7 in this OSPI document

Q: Thank you for everything you are doing to keep our kids safe this year.  Will there be any extra outdoor breaks in the day where the kiddos can take their masks off for a few minutes?

A: Yes.  Teachers may schedule breaks as needed similar to "brain breaks". 

Q: What is the metric being used for requiring and subsequently not requiring masks?

A: The mask requirement, as it currently stands, is based off a mandate, not a metric.

Q: Are cloth masks not allowed? Please be more specific.

A: Cloth masks are acceptable during the school day, but surgical or other types of masks may be required in some music classes or athletics.

Q: What if a student has a religious exemption to wearing masks?

A: We are not aware of a religious exemption option for the masking requirement for students, but we will research and update our FAQ if guidance is provided.

Q:  Is anyone going to enforce proper wearing of masks either directly or anonymously?

A: Yes. The building administrators will be assisting with enforcement. The plan is to teach and reward the expected behavior and then reteach and reinforce as needed for each child.  A family's partnership and teaching of the expectations will help more learners be successful.

Q: With the mask requirement being enforced based on a mandate rather than any metric, do you foresee any time during the year in which masks won't be required?  Or is it going to be year-round?

A: We follow the guidance provided by the Department of Health.   Masks may not be required all year, depending on updated guidance received by the health professionals at Department of Health.

Q: If we discover that our child's teacher, or other students in close proximity, are not in compliance - who do we notify and are there any consequences?

A: If concerns are with students, please contact your child's teacher. If concerns are with the teacher, please contact your child's principal. Interventions will occur as necessary.

Q: Will masks be required over the nose in the enforcement of masking rules?

A: Yes. Proper face covering fitting will be required.

Q: Will masks be required during P.E.?

A: P.E. classes are required to wear masks indoors. Masks are not required for outside P.E. activities, though students may choose to wear a mask outdoors.

Q: How are masks stopping a virus of .04 microns with a fiber size of 4 microns? Paper mask weaving is bigger, therefore useless to stopping a virus as it's also in exhalation vapor (fogged glasses). How is this scientifically happening?

A: We follow the guidance provided to us by the health professionals at Department of Health.

Q: Will you be able to provide masks for those students that do not have one?

A: We will have masks available for students who have forgotten theirs.



Q: How are sports teams affected if several players test positive for COVID and contact tracing is limited?

A: PSD nurses will contact families and follow the protocols provided by the Department of Health and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. A variety of factors can impact the contact tracing and exposure determination. Those include variables such as time of possible exposure, mask, and vaccination status.

Q: How will athletes be transported to away games?

A: Similar to last spring student-athletes will have the option of riding a district bus, self-transporting, or riding with parents. Information will be going out for coaches to share with their team this week as contest are starting soon.

Q: Will kids be required to wear a mask during sports?

A: Masks are not required for student-athletes in outdoor activities. For indoor activities, masks are required except when competing. There are some variations based on the level of contact for indoor activities (low, moderate, or high contact).


Class Sizes

Q: How big are basic classes going to be for the students?

A: Classrooms are staffed according to student enrollments and adjusted as needed based on class size around mid-September. 

Q: Looking at class sizes, there is unfortunately no way to maintain distancing. Our high schools have class sizes between 20-40+.  Three feet isn't feasible in any classroom. 1500-2000 students at the high schools means wall-to-wall bodies during passing periods.  Can we brainstorm ways to cut class sizes and stagger passing periods?

A: We are always open to brainstorming and discussing ideas. Please contact your child’s principal to initiate the conversation.

Q: Why not use your ESSER funds to reduce class sizes?

A: Actually, we are using ESSER funds to reduce class sizes.  We currently have about 38 elementary staff funded by ESSER to help lower class size.  Also, we did not reduce any staff for school year 21-22, despite the decrease in enrollment we experienced last year.


Social Emotional Wellness

Q: For elementary students, what are you offering for teachers and students for mental help?

A: Our district-adopted curriculum for elementary is called Second Step.  Teachers are also trained to engage in community circles which promote feelings of belongingness.

Q: What support system do we have in place for students that are hazed or bullied by other students or subjected to hostile classroom environments by staff?

A: The district strives to provide students with optimal conditions for learning by maintaining a school environment where everyone is treated with respect and no one is physically or emotionally harmed. School Board policy 3207 addresses this. 



Q: Will we be notified if our student's teacher is not vaccinated?

A: No. But, we will ensure all staff are complying with the Governor's mandate.

Q: What about religious exemptions for staff/teachers? Will parents know if their student is in a class with an unvaccinated teacher?

A: No. But we will ensure all staff are complying with the Governor's mandate.

Q: Will vaccinations be done at the school if mandated?

A: We held several vaccination sessions last spring, but at this time we do not have plans to vaccinate onsite.

Q: You mention that monitoring vaccination status will happen. Will there be public reporting of vaccination status? I understand there are limitations to the level of detail, but will district-level data be reported? (Including both students and district staff.)

A: We are not aware of a reporting requirement and will work with OSPI and our legal counsel regarding how to best approach employee data.

Q: How many teachers do we expect to lose in PSD due to the vaccine mandate? What will this do to class sizes?

A: We are working with our employees with regard to the Governor's mandate, and the timelines required. We do not expect an impact to class sizes.

Q: With the requirement for teachers to get vaccinated and the possibility that some will refuse, will there be a shortage of teachers?  What will happen to the classes?

A: We do not expect a shortage of teachers.

Q: If schools pose such a low transmission rate and have such great mitigation…then why the vaccine mandate for staff?

A: Vaccines are a mandate from the state and not an individual district decision. They are one mitigation measure in addition to mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitizing.

Q: Will the district be sponsoring vaccination clinics that students can attend without parental consent?

A: No.


Learning: In-person and Hybrid

Q: With rates of infection being so high, is there any chance that school will be going virtual again and what are the parameters for that?

A: In-person learning is mandated for schools to provide 5 days per week. Layered mitigations including masking, vaccinations for those eligible, ventilation, and physical distancing will be in place at all sites.    

Q: If rates continue to climb, will there be any option for parents to move their child to a digital option?

A: The option already exists.  Visit Puyallup Digital Learning for more information regarding this.  However, please understand that we are currently experiencing a large volume of requests for remote learning options for fall.  We will work to provide learning solutions responsive to family/student needs during high transmission periods of COVID-19.    

Q: Is it even safe to go back to school? COVID and Delta are becoming really bad and it’s most likely not going to get better.

A: Following the DOH requirements will allow us to start school on time with our students and staff.

Q: Does Puyallup Digital Learning offer AP classes and are athletics available?

A: Regarding athletics, students in PDL are permitted to participate in athletics at their school of residence. Regarding AP---Yes, but the offerings are more limited than those found in our comprehensive high schools.

Q: How do we know which module our children are going to do, and can the decision change if already made?

A: All students will be returning to school five days a week unless a family has chosen to enroll their child in Puyallup Digital Learning.

Q: Does Puyallup Digital Learning offer Highly Capable services?

A: P4 or Puyallup Parent Partnership Program, under Puyallup Digital Learning, serves K-8 students choosing on-line learning. Students who are identified as Highly Capable will be served in a different model of acceleration. Please contact Puyallup Digital Learning or our Highly Capable program for more details.

Q: If I want to switch my child from in-school to online learning, who do I contact? Is there a specific website for information? What is the wait period? How long is the commitment?

A: Visit Puyallup Digital Learning for more information regarding this.  However, please understand that we are currently experiencing a large volume of requests for remote learning options for fall.  We will work to provide learning solutions responsive to family/student needs during high transmission periods of COVID-19.    

Q: Do kindergartners have a different school schedule or are they now full time?

A: Kindergartners are on the same schedule. They have a delayed start, September 8, to hold Family Connection Meetings.

Q: Are after school clubs going to return, such as art or coding clubs?

A: Our first priority is to focus on opening the regular school day. We will be assessing our ability to offer clubs and activities in the near future.

Q: If cases keep rising and transitioning back to remote or hybrid becomes a real possibility, how much notice will parents/caregivers receive?

A: As soon as a decision is made to transition a class, school, etc. to a remote or hybrid learning model, families will be notified. The district's goal is to provide families with enough time to make necessary arrangements like childcare.

Q: Is it too late to switch to an online option for students?

A: It’s not too late.  However, please understand that we are currently experiencing a large volume of requests for remote learning options for fall.  We will work to provide learning solutions responsive to family/student needs during high transmission periods of COVID-19.  Visit Puyallup Digital Learning for more information. 

Q: What will happen to Quest classes who get exposed since there are no Quest classes online to switch to? Will they just lose 2 weeks of learning?

A: At this point in time, your assumption of potentially losing in-person learning time is correct. However, we are keeping that in mind as something we may be able to mitigate. Feel free to contact our Highly Capable Program executive director if you have some ideas that are feasible to implement.

Q: If someone has signed up for in-school learning, can they opt to do at-home learning? Is it too late?

A: It’s not too late.  However, please understand that we are currently experiencing a large volume of requests for remote learning options for fall.  We will work to provide learning solutions responsive to family/student needs during high transmission periods of COVID-19.  Visit Puyallup Digital Learning for more information. 



Q: What is the reason for naming history as critical race theory? And what type of history is taught?

A: We teach Washington State History in 4th and 7th grade, American Studies 5th and 8th grade, Ancient Civilization in 6th grade, Modern World History in 9th grade, Civics, Current World Problems (CWP) in 12th grade. We also teach AP US history, AP Human Geography, and Since Time Immemorial.



Q: What are the plans for choir and band classes?

A:   We are going to follow the guidance provided by OSPI. These classes will proceed as usual. They will follow mask protocols including bell covers for all wind instruments.

Q: Will grade 5/6 students be able to join band at the junior high schools in the morning?

A: Band and orchestra will be offered at the student's home elementary school during the school day.

Q: Will students in band be using adapters on their instruments to help with lowering the spread of COVID?

A: Yes.  We provide students with covers for the instruments that require it.

Q: Will the students still sing together in music class, since singing increases the chance of transmitting COVID? 

A: Universal masking with appropriate materials - MERV13 or 3-layer medical face mask or similar materials - is required in general music and elementary classrooms when singing is performed. Teachers should provide students with singers' masks to replace their cloth masks in these settings. When not singing, students should wear cloth masks as required in other classrooms.


Health & Safety Precautions

Q: What are the actual measures for air ventilation?  Just saying you change the filters one more time per year is meaningless.  How often does the air in a room change? 

A: We will change our filters 4 to 5 times a year, which is an increase to our normal operation. We have increased outside air to all our spaces from 15CFM to 20CFM per person to allow for maximum circulation.

Q: Are you staggering class exits to limit the number of kids in hallways and stairways?

A: Yes.  School leaders are maintaining similar travel patterns throughout the school that were followed last year.  

Q: Besides masks, what are the schools’ mandatory rules for safety, specifically elementary schools?

A: Including masks, schools will promote physical distancing and fully vaccinated staff.  See this link to our district's website:

Q: Are students sitting so they all face the same direction (as opposed to face to face in small groups of 3 or 4)? Would that reduce the risk of students spreading COVID?

A: This was a required practice last school year.  It's not a required practice this year at this time. We will follow the DOH's K-12 School's Requirements 2021-2022 found at this link:

Q: What spaces would prevent being able to be 6 feet apart?

A: Classrooms are going to be the spaces most limited to less than 6 feet apart.

Q: Will parents be allowed to walk children to their classes (for younger children) on the first day of school?

A: We are asking families to say their goodbyes at the drop off zones or prior to loading the school bus. Each school will be sending more information about first day of school procedures.

Q: Will there be staggering of classes exiting the classrooms to limit the number of students in the hallways at any given time?  Will you stagger the dismissal times? 

A: No---there is not currently a plan to stagger dismissal times. Given the short duration of passing periods and the fact that students quickly pass by each other we have decided to not stagger periods---at least to start the year.

Q: Do all classrooms have furniture that allows 3 feet of distance between students - or will many students be in classrooms sitting closer than 3 feet to other students?

A: No---not all classrooms will allow for 3 feet of physical distancing.

Q: Parents are concerned. What is going to be done to reassure parents that it is okay to send their children to school during a Global Pandemic?

A: We realize that many people feel anxious about starting school due to the rise in cases.  We’ve learned a lot this past year about disease transmission and effective mitigation measures.  In collaboration with our health department, we have met the safety requirements necessary to provide in-person instruction as safely as possible.  For those who are still uncomfortable, distance learning options available through Puyallup Digital Learning remain available. 

Q: Kindergarten through 5th graders cannot be vaccinated. How are they protected?

A: We have implemented multiple mitigating factors such as hand washing, hand sanitizer, masks, social distancing, ventilation, and cleaning.

Q: How often are areas cleansed?

A: Multiple times throughout the day.



Q: How will lunch be handled? Will kids be eating in the classroom again or will they eat in the cafeteria spaced out?

A: There will be a combination of eating in the classroom and/or the cafeteria. Not all schools have a cafeteria.

Q: Have you considered taking lunch outside? Children would be safer eating lunch outside when they remove masks together - ventilation.

A: Yes, we have thought about eating outside, as well as additional indoor spaces, and it will be one of the considerations.  

Q: Will students in the junior high schools be allowed to eat outside instead of in a crowded cafeteria? What about elementary students that are also eating in crowded cafeterias? It is not safe to have hundreds of students in a room with their masks off at the same time.

A: There will be some outside options considered for eating at our junior high and high schools.

Q: I read free breakfast and lunch for all students. Is this true, even if students don't qualify for the program?

A: Yes---this is true. All students have access to free breakfast and lunch at all schools throughout the district this upcoming year due to a USDA waiver. 

Q: Can you discuss the free lunch options, how will that be implemented?

A: Breakfast and lunch are free to all students this school year.  Students can go to the Point of Service (Lunch Staff) to note their order, pick up, and take it to their school's eating location.

Q: Can I send a lunch for my child if i wish?

A: Absolutely. Students are not obligated to accept the free lunch from school.



Q: Why is my child’s elementary school allowing masks to be voluntary during recess? The state’s health guidelines suggest masks should be worn when in large groups indoors & out.

A: We know our elementary students need a mask break, and that is why we are permitting them to take their mask off during recess. Our secondary students may remove their masks and take a break outside on campus. 

Q: Is recess staggered to provide more spacing?

A: Recess schedules are determined by each school, but historically they are staggered to accommodate space for all of our students.

Q: How will you keep small children from bunching up on the playground?

A: We have additional supervision that will be supporting recess to help with this.



Q: The CDC has had a few reversals in guidance that many viewed as premature and questionable.  Will PSD maintain consistent requirements throughout the school year, or will they be relaxed if federal guidance changes?

A: We are reviewing all guidance as soon as it is available to us.

Q: Are you willing to look at actual science data that has different findings about mask wearing and vaccine efficacy than what the governor and media are pushing out? Are you willing to stand up for our students and staff health and wellness even if it means you will forfeit government funding?

A: Local school boards in Washington State do not have authority to disregard DOH or Governor mandates during the State of Emergency. The Governor’s Proclamation declaring a State of Emergency has existed since Feb 29, 2020 and has been amended several times, most recently on Aug 20, 2021 with the vaccine and mask mandate. This proclamation has the power of law. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Puyallup School District has followed DOH guidance, which is tied to the proclamation. For the most part, the district has not been more restrictive than the DOH guidance and has worked closely with the TPCHD throughout. Further, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction or OSPI is our oversight agency, and they have been clear that willful disregard for the mask mandate will result in withholding of state apportionment (funding).

Q: Why are you waiting 2 days before school to ask parents and guardians about their concerns? Is it an afterthought or just callous?

A: Student safety is our primary concern.  Guidance is changing every day.  We wanted to be able to provide the most up-to-date information for families.

Q: Who or when will get to decide for a shutdown/online virtual learning?

A: OSPI, the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, and/or the Governor make these decisions.


Physical Distancing

Q: Why were the desks removed from the primary grades, kindergarten in particular, and children are back to shared tables that do not allow for 3ft distancing? How will this work for lunch? Last year, children were forced to sit on the floor in the dirty hallways and on the floor by the bathrooms.

A: Following the Governor's mandate, in-person learning is mandated for schools to provide 5 days per week. Layered mitigations including masking, vaccinations for those eligible, ventilation, and physical distancing will be in place at all sites to the extent possible.  Lunch procedures will be coordinated at each school.

Q: How are children going to stay safe during lunch if you are only requiring 3ft distancing?

A: Increased spacing for students to eat lunch are considerations at each school, including options for eating outside. There is also supervision of students to ensure masks are on when students are not actively eating or drinking.



Q: How will PSD ensure social distancing on the bus?

A: Buses are one of those areas where we will try to space out as much as possible but ultimately will need to provide transportation to all students that need it. We will rely on other layered prevention strategies (masking, windows slightly open, etc.) to help mitigate risk of transmission.