Seeking input on next school year and sharing mental health resources

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff, families and community members, 

As this school year comes to an end, many of you are wondering about what next year will look like. The Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction ( OSPI) sent guidance to school districts last week, which says schools should plan to operate in the fall with in-person instruction consistent with health requirements and prepare models for fully-remote and partially-remote learning. OSPI is already refining these recommendations and adding more context and information.  

The state has defined six priorities for reducing the risk of COVID-19 incidents as schools resume in-person instruction next year. We will continue to share information about how we will meet these expectations next fall.  

  1. Administer health screenings; sick students and staff must stay home  
  2. Develop hand washing protocols  
  3. Limit the number of students per classroom to ensure physical distancing 
  4. Face coverings for staff and students 
  5. Group students and staff into cohorts. This may be easier to do at the elementary level, but health officials say limiting the number of people we are around makes it easier to trace contact. This also means limiting visitors in our schools.   
  6. Clean and disinfect spaces

While the state is presenting optimistic guidance, it is clear we need to be flexible and innovative as we prepare for next year. We will have more clarity in the coming weeks and months, but even then, plans and answers may change, depending on recommendations from state education leaders and health professionals and the spread of the coronavirus. 

Here in Bellingham, we have multiple work groups that are diving into different scenarios to inform teaching and learning, as well as operations. We will spend much of this summer planning for three possibilities: 1) fully in-person teaching and learning, 2) a partially-remote learning model and 3) a fully-remote learning model. Our operations work teams are exploring ideas related to transportation, food services, custodial, and sports and facilities, just to name a few. Our new Reopening Schools Advisory Committee, which includes a variety of staff, students and community representatives, will meet all summer long to review plans and offer feedback to district leadership. Please continue to check email and our website for updates throughout the summer. 

Speaking of feedback, we are requesting staff, student and family reflections about this spring and thoughts about next school year to help inform our advisory committee’s work this summer. We invite you to share your feedback at this link. Please follow the instructions if you have more than one child attending our schools; you can also opt to take it just once. 

feedback

Mental health and wellness resources 

During the summer break, we will have staff available for answering questions and fielding requests, though on a limited basis. Families can call the Family Resource Center at 360-676-6456 and leave a message, or fill out the online contact form.  

The mental health and wellness resources on our website include helpful tips, numbers to call for free parenting support, free online classes to attend, and crisis and support lines. The stress related to changing routines and pressures due to the pandemic are real, and we encourage you to use these resources to support yourself and your family. One resource is a free online training on suicide prevention. This training is offered to all community members for the remainder of the month of June and can be accessed on the mental health and wellness resource webpage. The training is available for viewing through June 30, thanks to a community grant.   

While summer can be a time of catching our breath and winding down, it can also be a stressful time as families juggle work and child care at the same time. We are not able to offer our typical summer school options, but you can find information here about community partners offering summer camps and child care in our community. 

I encourage you to access these resources and reach out if you need help. Please continue to take good care of yourselves and each other this summer. 

Summer food update
Another important update is that Bellingham Public Schools will continue to offer Monday meal boxes, as well as daily lunches at a couple sites, at a number of sites throughout the summer. The summer program begins next Monday, June 22.  View an updated list of box distribution sites and kitchens serving breakfasts and lunches. 

In addition, there is some important information about pandemic EBT available to families. Visit this website to learn how to access these funds for additional information on these food benefits. 

Graduations 

And finally, I wanted to extend congratulations and gratitude to all who played a part in putting together our class of 2020 graduation ceremonies last Friday. You can find links to Bellingham, Options, Sehome and Squalicum high schools’ ceremonies on this webpage. Our students, staff and communities really did an outstanding job making these special for our graduates. 

Thank you, 

Greg Baker