Garfield-Palouse High School announced this week it will move to online-only learning starting Monday and ending Oct. 4 because of a COVID-19 outbreak among students.

“This week we have seen a number of students stay home, quarantine, or come down sick based on symptoms and testing for COVID-19,” the school district wrote in a letter to parents. “The exposure seems to have resulted from activities outside of the school, based on contact tracing and the department of health.”

It appears the outbreak has primarily affected the high school, but officials are continuing to monitor the elementary schools and middle school following the Whitman County Public Health’s recommendations.

“We will continually re-evaluate the situation at all levels as we consider returning to in-person learning, resuming activities or extending our pause of in-person learning,” the letter said.

Palouse Superintendent Mike Jones on Thursday did not specify how many students tested positive, but he said more than 40 percent of students were absent from school this week because of COVID-19 and other reasons. An unspecified number of teachers were also out of the building this week, according to Jones.

He did not connect the outbreak to one particular event, but he mentioned there were a number of activities that occurred in Whitman County including a recent Washington State University football game and last week’s Palouse Empire Fair.

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