March 20 update on meals, delivering tech and continued learning

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff, families and community,

As the first week of our closure comes to an end, I want to express gratitude to this amazing community for your patience, positivity and generosity. Each day, I hear and see amazing examples of The Bellingham Promise in action, whether it’s our Family Resource Center reaching out to support families with essentials or an organization taking initiative for the greater good. We just learned that all rides on WTA buses are free until further notice. The famous Fred Rogers quote rings true in Bellingham, “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Drive-thru meals start Monday, March 23; update on child care

Speaking of helping, our food services team has been working hard to get ready for drive-thru meal service to 16 different locations around Bellingham starting Monday, March 23. For times and locations, please see our FAQ. We plan to provide lunch and breakfast Monday through Friday for as long as we are able. If you have questions or concerns related to our meal service, please fill out this form, click “Is your question/feedback related to food access or meal service during school closures?” and submit the form; someone will respond soon.

We have an updated list of partners in our community offering child care on our FAQ, including the YMCA at Cordata and Parkview elementary schools. The Y’s program is for children whose parents are first responders, medical personnel or work in a pharmacy or grocery store.

Continued learning

Our educational technology coaches, teachers on special assignment, principals and district leaders have been working very hard behind-the-scenes to build sustainable and effective systems for learning during this closure.

Our focus will be:

  • provide connections
  • reinforce learning
  • give extensions from previously learned material
  • give ongoing feedback.

Many teachers have already connected with students and families in various ways to check in, provide instructional content and support students’ continued learning.  Our staff will continue working through this crisis, and our expectation is that all students will be provided with learning opportunities every week beginning no later than March 30.

  • Middle and high school students will receive their instructional support through their personal school district computing devices using tools such as OneNote, Microsoft Teams, and Flipgrid.
  • For elementary students, teachers will initiate online connections using the SeeSaw program that most of our elementary teachers have already been using to connect school with home.

For our seniors in their final semester of high school, and our students receiving specialized services: we have teams working now in each of these areas, and we also expect more specific guidance from the state next week.

In the meantime, we encourage families to engage in home learning as much as you can, recognizing each family and each staff member is in their own unique situation regarding work, health and child care. Our teachers have previewed and collected general family and student learning resources here.

Like all 294 school districts in Washington, we are working hard to respond to an unexpected and rapidly changing situation. It is likely that our learning plans will adapt and change in the weeks to come, and we thank students and families in advance for your patience as we adjust our systems.

Tech Delivery

Our community has generously supported us and our one-to-one technology initiative, and we look forward to using these tools to support learning during the closure. We also want to make sure that any family that needs a technology connection can get access.  If your family has needs for equipment or internet connection, please fill out our technology request webform.

Bellingham High

I received a few comments and wonders about our decision to enter into a facilities agreement with the City of Bellingham and the Lighthouse Mission to allow them to use part of Bellingham High School, and I’d like to add some context. There’s also a lot of information on the city’s FAQ.

  • People experiencing homelessness in our community are vulnerable and at a great risk of getting sick. The Drop-in Center on Holly Street is not big enough to ensure the safety of those staying and working there.
  • Our decision to partner with the Lighthouse Mission and city isn’t just about offering shelter. If people experiencing homelessness get sick and utilize significant hospital resources, then our greater community is at an increased risk because other people can’t receive medical care.
  • Our schools are public assets owned by our community. As you know, they are not currently being used by our students or staff, and, as mandated by the state, school districts are rising to the occasion to do what they can to help our greater community during this health crisis. Our district’s main goal during the closure is to “protect life, promote safety and minimize the spread of the virus,” and we believe this partnership is a good demonstration of our work in this area. 

I’m having a hard time saying “have a nice weekend” in the midst of crisis, knowing there are many in Bellingham suffering. But I do want to say thank you, take care and it’s my privilege to serve this community.

Greg Baker