Kindergarten, first grade and elementary Special Education return to school in Nov., update on stages 2 and 3

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff, families and community members,

As you know, we started this school year remote and in stage 1 of our Reconnect Plan with questions about how and when we’d progress to other stages, especially as guidance from different agencies kept evolving.

We are now ready to share our planned dates for stages 2 and 3, which brings more students and staff back into our schools. We intend to move forward with deliberate care.

We are making this decision based on updated guidance to school districts from the Whatcom County Health Department, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and new guidance for staff regarding personal protective equipment (PPE). For staff, please take time to review these resources, including videos and links before coming back to the school building or work space; families are welcome to review staff guidance as well. We will be sharing similar protocols for students soon. It will be important for all staff, students and families to all know and follow our best practices.

Below are our plans and dates for bringing back students in stages 2 and 3:

For elementary:

  • Kindergarten will return to in-person instruction starting Nov. 2.
  • Life Skills and BRIDGES: students grades K-2 in our Life Skills or BRIDGES programs will return to in-person instruction starting Nov. 2. Life Skills and BRIDGES for grades 3-5 will return Nov. 12.
  • First grade will return to in-person instruction starting Nov. 12.

The elementary schedule for kindergarten, first grade and Special Education will be 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Given our small class sizes at these grade levels, students would come to school for all four days (not the A/B hybrid that may be used in the future at other grade levels). Wednesdays will continue to be used for remote learning, family engagement, collaboration and professional development for staff. Preschool programs will be opening in the coming weeks; we will send more information to preschool families soon.

Other Opportunities:

  • Internet Café: Today, in our high schools, we are starting what we are referring to as an “internet café,” where students are coming to school to primarily engage in remote learning. The main idea is to offer a space for students to access Wi-Fi, have meals and snacks, work on school assignments and attend their online classes. The internet café concept is starting at high schools this week for a limited number of students and will expand to other students and schools in the coming weeks.
  • Athletics: High school student athletes and coaches will continue to engage in voluntary activities during the WIAA open coaching season through Dec.19, and will begin outdoor practices and trainings soon following our local health department and WIAA guidelines. The focus of outdoor practice and training is for coaches to work with student athletes in the development of overall training and conditioning and prepare them for the anticipated sport seasons. More information about starting dates and schedules will be coming soon through FinalForms and high schools.
  • Community partner opportunities: We have a number of local organizations and partners offering a variety of child care programs at our schools, some since March and others are just getting started. Most of these offerings are for select students, often furthest from opportunity, to support engagement in remote learning and include an outdoor education component. We are appreciative for these efforts in service of our students.

For those with students in kindergarten, first grade, and elementary Life Skills and BRIDGES, you can expect a call soon from staff to talk through your plans and discuss questions you may have about returning to school. We acknowledge there are many questions about PPE, schedules, lunch, recess, transportation and more. We are finalizing details and will be ready for students and staff to return. Please continue to stay engaged, and we will continue to provide updates.

This is an exciting milestone. We are looking forward to welcoming more staff and students back to our schools, and we are committed to being safe and smart to mitigate risks. While many of us have been working and learning remotely since March, it is important to remember that we have staff and child care providers who have continuously worked in our buildings, and they have shown us that with proper protocols and risk-mitigation plans, we can do this well.

Looking for feedback

While we continue to monitor health guidance and recommendations to expand in-person instruction, many students will continue to engage in remote learning. Please remember to give us your feedback on remote learning if you haven’t already. We have extended the deadline to noon tomorrow, Oct. 16.

You are also invited to attend a virtual conversation via Zoom at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22 to share more information and address your questions. Please join the meeting using this link. To simply listen in, call 253-215-8782 or 669-900- 6833 and enter webinar ID: 853 9915 6906.

You can also submit a question or topic before noon on Oct. 22 via this webform, and we will do our best to provide answers during the meeting. For those of you who cannot make it, we will post a recording of the event on our website sometime on Oct. 23.

As always, thank you for your continued support as we navigate these interesting times.

Greg Baker