With Covid cases now totaling 20 in Goldendale High School (GHS)—and 14 new cases discovered just in recent days—the school is shutting down for this week, and graduation is moving outdoors.

Cases at GHS rocketed from three to 20 in a short time, according to information shared at a school board meeting Monday night and a report from the Klickitat County Health Department (KCHD), which Saturday reported the 14 new cases. In addition to the active Covid cases, 138 people are quarantined because of close contact with the cases, including two staff members. There is discussion of canceling all remaining sports for the school year.

The initial Covid transmission is believed to have originated outside the school.

GHS administration acted to move graduation outdoors after feedback from parents. The ceremony will be at the football stadium and by invitation only, with eight tickets distributed per graduate. Bleachers will be moved from different fields with some chairs set up to accommodate attendees. There will Covid checks at field entrances, and masks will be required. Graduates will receive diplomas, but handshakes will not be allowed. Graduation will take place June 11 at 7 p.m. Fifty-four students are scheduled to graduate.

Over 60 students and staff were absent from the high school Friday, according to school administration officials, due to the significant number of close contacts and individuals identified as positive cases. Of the individuals testing positive for COVID-19, there does not appear to be any evidence of in classroom transmission between students and staff at this time, according to the KCHD.

Closing the high school for this week was a choice made to help contain the spread of the virus, with its sudden and dramatic explosion in just days. The decision was made by the school in consultation with KCHD out of an overabundance of caution to keep students and staff healthy. Goldendale Middle and Primary Schools will continue with in-person learning.

Both the school district and KCHD are continuing to work to investigate any and all close contacts and possible exposures related to this individual case as well as contacting all of those individuals identified to provide quarantine information and resources to any individuals who may have been exposed. 

Students and staff who have been identified as a close contact or who are a positive case should continue to work with school administration and KCHD staff on when they can safely return to the school setting.