Graduation and planning for the 2020-21 school year

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff, families and community,

We shared graduation plans with our seniors and their families on Wednesday, and we have appreciated hearing from some members of the class of 2020 and parents. Some of you had questions about our process while others wanted to offer some feedback about our plans to host virtual ceremonies on June 12 via video.

The sentiment we heard boils down to this main idea: students and adults want a traditional, in-person graduation ceremony. I want you all to know that I hear you and I wholeheartedly agree and understand, as do our high school principals and the others on our leadership team who have been trying hard to find the best solution for our graduates, families and staff. We care about you, we love you and we are so proud of you. And we wish we could honor your wishes.

How did we come to our decision?

Our process to determine how to safely honor our graduates relied heavily upon guidance from Governor Jay Inslee, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Whatcom Unified Command and health officials. We have also engaged regularly with our state superintendent, other school districts across the state, our high school principals and student representatives to hear ideas and consider the pros and cons of each, while keeping safety as our top priority given our circumstances. Our team has been tracking news stories all over the country about what other schools and states have being doing. I have shared our thinking and process over the last two months in email updates, as well as in virtual conversations via Zoom and on social media.

We continue to receive information and guidance about graduation, and like everything we announce and decide during our closure, we will adjust as needed, so please stay tuned. Keep in mind that if you happen to see a school in a different state congregating on a football field or hosting a graduation with kids in cars, rules and circumstances are different state-by-state. Washington state is still in phase 1, which restricts large gatherings, even outdoors.

Whether you are a student, or a member of the family, staff or community, I encourage you to lift up and celebrate our graduates and each other. Please help our grads out by staying positive and getting creative and, of course, whatever you do, do it safely. I appreciate the ideas to hold out for an in-person event for the class of 2020 when it is safe and appropriate, but that could be months or longer, and it’s important that we celebrate our seniors in June.

Thinking about 2020-21

The state has convened a task force with the purpose of providing direction to school districts for the 2020-21 school year. We have numerous staff from our district and county on this committee, and we look forward to hearing their guidance. In the meantime, we are working to digest ideas that are emerging as to what school might look like in the fall. One idea is to alternate schedules (think A/B days) for all students to help decrease class sizes. Another idea is to maintain remote learning at the secondary level and use middle and high schools to house elementary students and staff. Please be patient as it likely will not be until later this summer when we announce plans. Our planned first day of school next year is Sept. 2, so we are fortunate that we will get to observe, learn and adjust our plans based on other districts and schools who start earlier.

As always, I appreciate hearing from you, so please feel free to email me with any questions.

Thank you,

Greg Baker