Issaquah School District Superintendent Announces 2020-2021 School Opening Plans

0
554
Issaquah School District Superintendent Ron Thiele

The following email was sent to residents in the Issaquah School District Community today, Wednesday July 16, 2020.

For the past few weeks six Work Groups made up of dozens of Issaquah School District staff, students and parents have been developing a reopening plan for our schools this fall. It may be better to call it a “reimagining plan.” The delivery of instruction and creation of learning opportunities, either in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid model, is complex and challenging work, especially in this dynamic environment. I am very grateful to all of the Work-Group individuals for the thinking, time and energy they have put into this important and unprecedented task. If you follow the stories from around the region or nation regarding school structures, due to the complexity of the work and discussions that have transpired to date, the communication is lengthy. Below I share some of the context while we work our way toward recommending plans to the ISD School Board.

Our goal with this communication is to provide our learning community with the most up-to-date thinking related to our reimagining school plans as we prepare to ask our families whether they would choose to participate in our hybrid model or ask to participate in a fully remote learning option. Please watch for a message in the coming days with instructions on how to complete a survey on that topic. Your participation will be key to informing the Work Groups’ recommendation to the School Board as well as the Board’s decision.

Our current planning holds student and staff health as a priority, and I am sensitive to the daily news that is delivered and the questions we all have in interpreting the health guidance. I am also sensitive to the social costs that school closures unevenly compounded, disproportionately affecting families based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (it is no wonder that many then desire a reopening and reimagining of schools). At the same time, we are in the midst of a fluid, novel coronavirus pandemic that necessitates not only flexibility, but a paradigm shift in our thoughtful delivery of learning opportunities. As a result, our plans focus on providing a robust educational experience for students to support their social-emotional-physical health in order to facilitate their best learning by providing high-quality, developmentally appropriate practices.

The plans we’re considering are built around the current recommendations from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) offered in the Reopening Washington Schools 2020 District Planning Guide. Those recommendations include guidance from Department of Health, Labor and Industry, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and the Center for Disease Control providing constraints and considerations on physical interactions. Further, we abide by the updated Governor’s Proclamations and our own District Regulations, which include an equity lens. All of these organizations provide guidelines particularly on how to achieve Worksite and Employee Health and Safety Requirements (page 24). These rules include requirements for us to:

maintain a minimum six-foot separation between all employees, students, and others to the maximum extent feasible;
ensure increased hand hygiene for everyone;
require all employees and students to wear cloth face coverings and use other personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate;
conduct daily health screenings that include a temperature check of all staff and students who will be in a district facility prior to the start of each school/work day;
limit access to our buildings for non-essential business; and
increase building cleaning and sanitizing.
As you can imagine, these constraints force the six Work Groups to think very differently about how our schools can safely operate in-person. In order to follow these COVID mitigation requirements most districts are considering remote learning and hybrid models that bring students back into the school facilities in a limited fashion rather than the traditional five-day-per-week schedule. The Issaquah School District is no different.

The “hybrid” model includes in-person instruction and remote learning. Currently, in addition to all of the health guidelines above, critical components of the hybrid model from the Elementary and Secondary Scheduling Work Group consider the following:

Elementary (Grades Pre-Kindergarten-Grade 5):

PreK-Grade 2 students come to school in-person four days per week.
Grade 3-5 students come to school in-person two days per week. They experience remote learning the other three days per week.
Grade 3-5 students attend “in cohort” such that they come to school Monday/Tuesday (A group) OR Thursday/Friday (B group).
Wednesday may be used for class meetings, office hours, planning and recording learning activities, requisite meetings, and to deep clean the building between cohort attendance.
Classroom teachers deliver new concepts in-person in the building, using the remote learning days to support and deepen knowledge and skill development.
Classroom meetings are used to ensure that there are ongoing social connections between student peers, as students are in A/B cohorts.
Students with unique needs and identified learning challenges who qualify for additional instruction or services, such as those who are English Language Learners, have Individualized Education Plans, and need school to meet basic socioeconomic needs, may be scheduled for in-person instruction on their non-cohort days if it can be safely provided.
Use of Learning Management Systems such as Seesaw and Microsoft Teams to facilitate coordination between in-person and remote learning activities as well as to support ongoing communication with families.
The start and dismissal of the school day is staggered in order to facilitate physical distancing.
Food Service meals will need to be pre-packaged for students and will be eaten in a manner that provides for physical distancing.
Recess will be done by classroom cohorts with consideration given to the vital role such outdoor access will play for both students and staff.
Hand hygiene is stipulated as any student or staff member enters a classroom or building.
Secondary (Grades 6-12):

Students learn two days per week in-person and three days per week in remote learning. Similar to elementary, there is an A group and B. It is anticipated that contiguous learning days are most beneficial for learning and ensure the deep cleaning between cohort days.
Wednesday may be used for class meetings, office hours, planning and recording learning activities, requisite meetings, student collaboration, and to deep clean the building between cohort attendance.
Classroom meetings are to ensure that there are ongoing social connections between student peers, as students are in A/B cohorts.
Students with unique needs and identified learning challenges who qualify for additional instruction or services, such as those who are English Language Learners, have Individualized Education Plans, and need school to meet basic socioeconomic needs, may be scheduled for in-person instruction on their non-cohort days if it can be safely provided.
Master schedule and graduation requirement complexities reduce the opportunity for students to move in the building in cohort during the day. Instead, physical movement under directional signage, one-way hallways, and staggered releases are utilized to reduce large groups.
Consistent student schedules for the week are important to support social, emotional, and physical growth as well as to meet academic needs. Making use of the current A/B days at all of the comprehensive high schools is inherent to the support of A/B days.
Use of Canvas as the Learning Management System so that students and families have a singular, common place to access their learning, regardless if they are in-person or remote.
The start and dismissal of the school day is staggered in order to facilitate physical distancing.
Food Service meals will need to be pre-packaged for students and will be eaten in a manner that provides for physical distancing.
Hand hygiene is stipulated as any student or staff member enters a classroom or building.
While our focus has been on returning to in-person school because of its complexities, we are aware of the individual health concerns of students and staff that make in-person learning untenable. As a result, we are also developing a full remote learning option. The full remote option has critical components that include:

High quality learning modalities specific to online learning.
Project-based learning that engages students in their thinking.
Particular focus paid to supporting the social-emotional needs of students who engage in this learning mode.
Regular check-ins with staff.
Facilitation of a District-wide student cohort not specific to any individual school.
Commitment from families to either two Trimester or one semester terms at a minimum before they are able to opt into in-person learning.
While meeting the same learning standards, remote learning may be a “pre-packaged” curriculum, such as is used by online alternative learning experiences, rather than the curricula used by in-person instruction.
While the above are intended to provide a broad overview and share our current plans, it is important to note that the impact of the inherent change in the educational delivery model, and thus working conditions for employees, must be bargained with the various labor organizations. Further, the Work Groups continue to explore the specific details of what school would look like and learning reimagined. Those details include considerations around transportation, health and isolation protocols, learning materials and modes, and transitions and flexible responses driven by the dynamic conditions of the novel coronavirus.

Any plan must be approved by our elected School Board and then submitted to the State Board of Education and OSPI. The District plans to make our recommendation to the ISD School Board during the July 30, 2020 meeting. Our goal with this communication is to provide our learning community with the most up-to-date thinking related to our reimagining school plans as we prepare to ask our families if they will be participating in our hybrid model or asking to participate in a fully remote learning option. Look for that survey to come your way soon, as your participation will be key to informing not only the recommendation, but the decision of the School Board.

Sincerely,

Superintendent Ron Thiele

 

####

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here