March 19 update: progress on our goals, physical distancing

Dear staff, students, families and community,

As most of you are aware, one of my goals as superintendent is to be as transparent as possible, and I want you to know that I plan to send out frequent messages during the closure when we have answers to your important questions, especially with a rapidly changing landscape.

I was on a conference call this morning with the state Superintendent Chris Reykdal, and then a number of our staff listened to a webinar to hear an overview of how he’s viewing the role of schools right now.  If you have some time, I think it’s helpful to hear the state Superintendent’s perspective, which certainly influences our work here in Bellingham.

We previously shared the Health Department’s guidelines for gatherings for children. It’s also important to note that local medical professionals have suggested we should be limiting ourselves to groups of two with greater distances between people. I ask that we all do our best to stay diligent, avoid groups and consider creative ways to engage with each other while avoiding in-person contact.

Speaking of creative engagement, I have seen some awesome examples of staff engaging with students and their community during the closure!

This is a photo from Shuksan Middle School’s newsletter of staff members showing some love to their students during a Zoom online meeting.

 

Sehome High School has been sending daily morning announcements via YouTube (courtesy of assistant principal Mike Couto). Note the six feet between them and the tape measure!

I encourage everyone to read our newsletters and messages, watch your teachers’ videos, respond via SeeSaw and other educational apps and follow our schools and district on social media.

The big picture is that our district is continuing to focus on our primary goals during this health crisis. With these goals in mind, I want to share some updates.

Goal: Protect life, promote safety and minimize the spread of the virus.

  • New: We are providing senior district staff to support Whatcom County Unified Command providing emergency management response.
  • New: The City of Bellingham and Lighthouse Mission have asked us to use part of Bellingham High School to house its Drop-in Center during this health crisis. In the spirit of The Bellingham Promise and our collective commitment, we believe our schools are here to serve not only kids but our community. This move helps The Mission adhere to the recommended six-foot social distance that just isn’t feasible in their current facilities. Please see this FAQ developed by the City and Mission. We’re grateful for Bellingham High’s support in this time of need.

Goal: Provide food to the young people in our community.

Goal: Work with community partners in supporting child care options for our first responders, medical employees and families in greatest need.

Goal: Develop innovative ways to support ongoing student learning.

  • New: Develop Team Tech Delivery to ensure all Bellingham Public Schools families 1) have a computer at home to support student learning, and 2) have internet access.
  • New: Develop a team of district leaders to help determine the parameters and opportunities available to us, and the subsequent next steps to help our seniors finish their last year and graduate on time. We are working hard on sorting out the guidelines from the state, and the State Board of Education was given some increased jurisdiction recently to possibly waive or modify graduation requirements for seniors that are/were on track to graduate this year. As we roll out our plan for teaching and learning, that will be a primary focus for us…and all the other 294 districts in the state. : ) The State Superintendent has also said he would provide more guidance next week, and we are hoping to communicate to families of seniors soon after that.
  • We shared some information yesterday about our developing remote learning; we are working hard to create systems that are effective and sustainable. You can expect district-level communications as well as to hear from your child’s teacher(s) and principal soon.

I’m happy to field your questions about any of these topics, or you can submit a question or comment through our online form.

I hope you are hanging in there, taking care of each other and enjoying this sun.

Greg Baker