December 2021 update: BPS Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan

A Message from the Department of Teaching and Learning

Our overarching goal of the Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan is to collaboratively plan for student and system supports for the 2021-22 school year focused on academic and student well-being. This plan for Bellingham Public Schools was initially developed as we returned to a full school year following the school shut down in March 2020 and the 2020-21 school year of remote, in-person and interrupted learning due to COVID-19.

This update serves as an extension of our Academic and Student Well-Being Learning Recovery Plan created in June 2021, which was established to be an iterative process of continuous improvement for all of our students, especially those most vulnerable and impacted by the interrupted learning experiences of the past 19 months.

Data sources

In addition to the data sources identified in the June recovery plan, we are taking part in the examination of data in the following ways:

Identified focus areas

This summary of identified focus areas includes planned uses of federal (ESSER) funds and new initiatives discovered and planned for throughout August and fall 2021. It is targeted toward meeting student academic and social, emotional well-being needs based on the data identified in our previous plan. Three main areas of focus emerged in our summer planning, each with specific and targeted initiatives of focus and detail.

  • Maintain the operation and continuity of services
  • Retain our staff at pre-pandemic levels
  • Allow for smaller than typical class sizes throughout the system in targeted areas

We saw a drop in enrollment last year impacting our budget and causing the need for additional funding to maintain small class sizes or reduce class size. We expect and hope that more students will return to school in the coming year; however, we were looking at significant budget cuts due to the loss of state funding, which would have compromised our ability to have appropriate staffing levels.

  • Make investments in student success and achievement. Key initiatives include example,
  • Enhance our family outreach and engagement,
  • Increase instructional coaching for our schools, specifically in all elementary schools,
  • Add behavioral supports through deans and administrative support,
  • Target leadership in literacy and early learning in support of the implementation of foundational skills curriculum and early learning literacy screening,
  • Add staffing, including additional coaches, direct services, family engagement, and newcomer support to our Multilingual Learner specialists, and
  • Add district athletics and activities support for all schools to enhance opportunities and access for student engagement, connection, and belonging.

The above examples are all geared towards the most effective re-entry possible, paying attention to students’ needs, particularly underserved populations, in both academic areas as well their well-being.

3) Health, safety and prevention measures, including:

  • Provide families with instructional options to remain remote (but connected),
  • Add additional staff to support mental health needs, including an additional mental health specialist to expand the mental health team outreach and supports, and
  • Add more staffing to support health and nursing throughout the district.

These examples are geared toward student well-being, health and safety, and also include supports and outreach for families, community and staff. These are all in service of creating school environments that promote belonging, enhance connection and allow for productive student engagement and intentional and purposeful teaching and learning.

Emerging focus areas

Throughout the fall, emerging priorities continue to surface as we further examine data, learn more about our students’ academic, social and emotional well-being, and work collaboratively to support student learning, staff well-being, and family and community circumstances intentionally and relentlessly.  The following areas of focus have come to the surface and are added to the initiatives and efforts listed above.

  • Expand early literacy screener and foundational skills curriculum to grades 3-5 (originally planned for K-2 only): we see our second and third graders lacking foundational skills and therefore struggling with reading and writing at grade level. We will teach these skills to boost their abilities.
  • Expand Promise Kindergarten, our transitional K program, to serve more students: preschool opportunities in our community are decreasing while local families’ needs are increasing. This expansion will help meet the growing needs in Bellingham.
  • Add wellness support for staff: we will continue to focus on students and families, and we will intentionally focus our efforts on staff, as well. If our teachers are well, then our students will thrive.
  • Focus on inclusionary practices districtwide: examine our practices, develop our tiered supports (especially focused on collective efforts around Tier 1), and build our system to most effectively and efficiently utilize human resources in support of student academic and behavioral needs. This effort also includes schoolwide support of collaboration and systemwide work on standards, culturally responsive instructional practices in planning for student outcomes.
  • Continue efforts in equity and diversity: this includes professional learning for leaders and schools, further development of equity analysis tool and development of policies and procedures for our bias response team and hate reporting and response.
  • Hire an additional homeless liaison/family support liaison: restructure family engagement and homeless teams to function as one team to more efficiently provide supports districtwide.
  • Refocus our efforts around social emotional learning: focus on relationships, connections and explicit teaching of social skills and understanding of emotions. This effort is made in the service of increased sense of school belonging for all students resulting in academic improvements and increased student, staff and family well-being.
  • Maintain and enhance community partnerships in support of student learning and connection: together we achieve more than alone. Maximize our collective efforts with existing and new partners, including YMCA, Opportunity Council, Vamos, Common Threads, Bellingham Public Schools Foundation, Healthy Whatcom, PTAs/PTOs, Unity Care, SeaMar, Compass Health, Dept of Health and Catholic Community Services.

If you have questions or input, contact Cindy.Thompson@bellinghamschools.org or Polly.Johnson@bellinghamschools.org with the Department of Teaching and Learning.