Governor extends “stay home” order, BPS by the numbers and remote learning update

Dear students, staff, families and community,

As you may have heard, the governor has extended his “stay home” order through at least May 4.  It seems logical that schools would then be closed until at least that same date.  We expect more details to be shared by the governor in the coming days. Thank you for your continued patience and grace during this challenging time.

Our strategic plan The Bellingham Promise calls out our collective commitment to Bellingham’s children, which means we rely on our community’s support to fulfill our Promise. The numbers in the infographic below help illustrate the incredible efforts of our district and staff, as well as the generosity of our community, which comes in many different forms, including voter-approved levies to provide access to technology to further teaching and learning, and donations to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation to fill gaps so that we can provide families access to food and other basic needs.

During these trying times, it’s uplifting to see the ways we are supporting one of our core beliefs in The Promise that “all children should be loved.”

I appreciate hearing from our community, so please feel free to reach out with questions. This week, I’ve received a few emails from families with wonders about 1) why we’re changing our meal service methods, and 2) remote teaching and learning.

We’ve changed our meal service methods from daily meals to a multi-meal box once per week because our guidance from the state and federal government keeps evolving. We are taking a lot of factors into consideration as we try our best to meet the needs of our community, from health and safety to food accessibility. We are asking our staff and food services team to be flexible as we navigate these complexities; I ask our families to please be ready for more change. If you have specific questions about school meals, please fill out this form and someone on our team will get back to you soon.

Remote Learning

We have used our first weeks of remote learning to reach out, reinforce learning, build routines and calibrate our expectations. Other important ongoing tasks are meeting state and federal recommendations to meet the needs of students receiving special services and transforming classes that are hands-on and relationship-based into remote learning. We are also continuing to tackle the challenge of providing technology access to families. Our amazing teaching staff is working incredibly hard to connect with their students and use tools to communicate with families and students. Here’s just a few examples:

Elementary school staff are rising to the challenge of sending home daily video messages to connect with their students, and families are engaging through the Seesaw app on learning menus. Their creativity, collaboration and tech skills have never been stronger. Here are some stills from their video messages through Seesaw:

Middle and high school staff began, and in some cases continued, weekly assignments, using tools like FlipGrid and the Office 365 suite—OneNote for assignments, Stream for videos and all the other tools students have already been using in their classes. Here are just a few examples of our teachers’ and students’ creativity in action to meet learning targets:

One school used FlipGrid for students to demonstrate science in action at home, as students used household items to demonstrate and share videos with their peers on cloud formation. (Dairy Queen cups worked well!)

Other students used their writing skills, social-emotional learning and knowledge of the Hero’s Journey to reach out to elders in care facilities and send them encouragement and support.

We’ve had a lot of questions about what school will look like moving forward; we’ve continued to receive guidance from the state and federal government and are working diligently to provide answers on high school crediting, grading and plans for seniors. Please expect more details on these topics soon from your teachers, principals and the district.

Finally, we have gathered resources to support families with mental health and wellness during these unprecedented times, including support for managing with stress, anxiety, and routines for you and your children during the school closures. Please see this list of resources on our website.  We currently have a group of staff working on some self-care tips that we will be sharing out over the next few weeks on social media. Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see some of those. We often share photos and positive ideas on those platforms throughout the week.  It is also a great way for us to all stay connected in these times.

Please continue to take good care of yourselves and each other,

Greg Baker