Reconnect stage plan and in-person school

What kind of schedule and breaks will elementary students have?

Kindergarten through Grade 3

Our schedule will be 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Students and staff will follow the current Wednesday remote learning model. When at school, students will engage in regular school activities, which have been modified to keep spacing a priority. Each school will have protocols for bathroom visits and regular handwashing. During outside play, we will focus on keeping appropriate space.

Watch our Return to School video for elementary school.

Grades 4 and 5

Grades 4 and 5 will follow a hybrid schedule, which means a combination of remote and in-person teaching and learning with students coming to school two days per week from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday/Tuesday OR Thursday/Friday.

What about students who receive special services?

Our Reconnect Plan and five stages prioritize in-person instruction for students who receive special services, including ELL, special education and those who are experiencing homelessness as soon as possible.

Life Skills and BRIDGES grades K-12 and Community Transitions have returned to in-person instruction.

Will transportation be available to and from school?

Using Infofinder to find your bus stop and time:

If your child will be riding the bus to/from school, you can find their bus stop and time at Infofinder. Enter your street address (no zip code or school) and you will be able to see the location and times for your child. Please note that as enrollment changes we will make adjustments to bus stops and times as needed, and you can always see the most up-to-date information by checking Infofinder.

Bus riding reminders:

  • Please arrive at the bus stop five minutes prior to the scheduled time in the morning.
  • Masks are required while on the bus. Please have your mask on when the bus arrives.
  • Some rows/seats may be roped off for physical distancing. Any roped off seats will not be used. Currently front row seats will not be used.
  • On the bus, students should sit near the window. Siblings will sit in the same seat.

For transportation help or questions:

If you have any questions about transportation, please contact your school office, or call transportation directly at 360-676-6546

Will meals be available at school?

Every school will be serving breakfast and lunch to every student at no cost. At high schools, students will grab their meal to-go as they leave. You do not need to have an account to eat one or both of these meals. Students can bring meals from home if they prefer. If you have been picking up our weekly meal boxes, please continue to do so. When you pick up the weekly box, let our food services staff know you have children attending school and eating our meals and you will receive a modified meal box of the fresh items — produce, bread, dairy — and the weekly scratch-made entrée. 

Every school will serve meals differently due to difference in layout and space. Each school will practice the best social distancing and safety protocols for their site.

I do not yet feel comfortable returning my student to in-person school, but they are scheduled to come back. What options do I have?

Your school may have already or will be contacting you soon to talk through your plans. If you are not able or willing to return your child(ren) to in-person school, we have some additional district options, such as Bellingham Virtual Learning or the Bellingham Family Partnership Program.

We also offer our Remote Reconnect Plan which has a more limited amount of live learning but allows students and families to maintain a connection with their neighborhood school, teacher and class.


What is current guidance for high school athletics?

We greatly value athletics and activities in supporting mental and physical health and are working to continue to provide creative opportunities within health guidelines.

High School: See our Return to Play guidelines for details regarding specific high school sports guidance and safety protocols. High schools will use FinalForms for athletic clearance and communication with athletes and families. If you have questions about FinalForms, please contact your school’s athletics/activities office.

Bellingham High School and Options High School: Chad Larsen, athletics and activities coordinator; Ann Vallee, administrative assistant: 360-676-6575 ext. 7168

Sehome High School: Colin Cushman, athletics and activities coordinator; Kristin Cerenzia, administrative assistant: 360-676-6481 ext 5201

Squalicum High School: Patrick Brown, athletics and activities coordinator; Pam Behee, administrative assistant: 360-676-6481 ext. 7634


Safety protocols for return to in-person school

What factors and metrics are being considered to move through the Reconnect Plan stages?

We use several different metrics and factors, including the Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic data and the rate of local cases. We also rely on guidance from a number of organizations and entities, including the governor’s office and health officials.  

Other important factors include transmission rates, vaccinationsagreements with our labor groups and what other local districts are doing. Learn more about our Five Stages of the Reconnect Plan.

What safety protocols will schools be using? How will students know what to do to minimize risk to themselves and others?
  • We are using regular health reminders and attestations for staff and students.
  • Families will receive regular messages reminding them they need to attest their child is symptom-free and follow our COVID-19 safety agreement for famiies.
  • If a student is at school, this means their family has attested that they are free from these common COVID symptoms:
    Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever (100.4°F) or chills, muscle pain or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion, new loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, unusual fatigue, and diarrhea
  • Our nurses and other staff have been refining protocols we will use within schools for cleaning, hand washing, moving through hallways, bathroom visits and other school routines.
  • Because each site is slightly different, schools will be sharing their own routines and protocols with families; however, all sites are in close contact with our COVID coordinator so our practices are aligned and consistent at each school.
  • Each site has at least two safety coordinators who act as resources for their site, channels for information, and a response team (if needed).
  • All staff have had training in all of our safety protocols.
What type of masks are recommended for students and staff to wear?

Masks are essential to limiting spread of COVID-19 and increased layers of masks will increase protection. On Feb. 10, the CDC released research on increased efficacy of masks by layering and fit. The Washington state Department of Health has not made any changes to their guidance.

We expect that students and staff not wear gaiters, bandanas, or valve masks due to CDC recommendations. If a student or staff member is wearing one of the above, we will provide them with a mask to change into. If a student or staff member needs an accommodation they should work with their principal or supervisor individually.

The CDC suggests selecting masks that: have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric and are made from tightly woven cloth; completely cover nose and mouth; fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps; have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask. Mask should also block light when held up to bright light source.

When layering masks, the CDC says not to double mask a KN95 or any disposable masks; a single snug fitting KN95 OR a procedural mask with a cloth face mask on top are two examples of variations that increase effectiveness.


What is our air filtration and ventilation like in our schools?

Building strategies that improve air quality are part of a layered defense against COVID-19 transmission. District Safety and Operations leaders utilize recommendations from technical experts (like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers), local health jurisdictions, OSPI, WA DOH, CDC, and public health research institutes to stay current with best practices in environmental health mitigation.

All buildings have fresh outside air that is filtered, circulated, and re-filtered within the building. Air exchanges are monitored and measured by Buildings & Grounds using the building’s mechanical HVAC systems. Classrooms have 5 air changes per hour or greater while windows are closed, with such constant air exchange and filtering reducing the likelihood of airborne COVID-19 aerosols. Be sure to keep any room vents open and clear from any blockages (like furniture or decorations) to ensure maximum system efficiencies.

View page 6 of our Staff Handbook for more information about ventilation.

What protocols will be followed to track and communicate information about COVID-19 cases connected to our schools?

Our COVID-19 dashboard shows confirmed positive cases of Bellingham Public Schools students or staff engaged in in-person learning or work at a district site. If no contact tracing and no closures are required in a small in-person learning community it may not be possible to share data and also protect confidential health information. The Washington State Department of Health small numbers reporting guidelines provides more information about data reporting and protecting confidential health information.  

Currently, the health department is the community lead for communications about COVID-19. They have the infrastructure and experience to share information about communicable diseases. In our schools we have a long-standing partnership with the health department for when and how we communicate regarding communicable diseases—whooping cough, chicken pox, and so forth—and we will continue to follow and update these protocols. We are updating our communications protocols hand in hand with our return to work/school protocols, and we will rely on the health department to guide who, how and when we communicate with the public.  

How will we respond if a case is linked to a school? Will my child or family need to quarantine?

We have protocols in place for both suspected and confirmed cases within our schools. Each situation is unique and will be handled on a case by case basis. For more information on the guidance we are using, please see this flow chart from the Washington State Department of Health.

If your child begins to feel unwell during the school day, they will be directed to a designated screening room. There a school nurse or trained staff member will check your child’s temperature and assess their symptoms. Families will be notified if their child needs to be picked up from school.

If there was a positive case for a student or staff, then anyone determined to be a close contact would have to quarantine.  The school district and the health department will work together to determine close contacts, and will work together to communicate any action steps students, staff or families would need to take.

We are heading into flu and cold season. What if my child is sick but it is not COVID-19?

If your child has any of these symptoms, please contact your school and keep your child home:

  • Fever (100.4° F or higher) or chills
  • Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat, nasal congestion or runny nose
  •  Recent loss of taste or smell
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Unusual fatigue

To be on the very safe side, students should stay home if anyone in their household has these symptoms. And families should ask themselves these questions:

  • Have you been in close contact with anyone with confirmed COVID-19?
  • Have you had a positive COVID-19 test for active virus in the past 10 days, or are you awaiting results of a COVID-19 test?
  • Within the past 14 days, has a public health or medical professional told you to self-monitor, self-isolate, or self-quarantine because of concerns about COVID-19 infection?


Remote Reconnect or Fully Remote Program

Online learning was very challenging last spring for me/my child. How will it look different?

Here are some of the ways that our Reconnect Plan is already different than last spring’s remote learning:

  • Attendance and participation are required, with similar expectations to in-person school.
  • Most classes will be taught using the Microsoft Teams interface so students and families have fewer systems to navigate.
  • Teachers will lead scheduled live (synchronous) lessons.
  • Classes will be a combination of online live lessons and teacher-directed offline work, not 100% screen time.
  • Students will receive regular feedback on assignments and grades will be assigned.
  • Our schedules will more closely resemble typical school schedules.
  • Teachers will share common learning standards.
  • Teachers will also be able to personalize and differentiate for the variety of learning needs within their classrooms.
What will grading look like?

All students will receive regular feedback on assignments and grades will be assigned.

Our work teams have been working all summer to plan professional development for teachers in best practices for teaching online, providing feedback, and assigning letter grades for courses earning high school credit. This continued work we had already begun through our high school grading practices task force, which has been working since spring 2019. We recognize that in a remote learning environment it’s even more important to have clear systems for teaching and grading that are accurate, bias-resistant and motivating.

Middle and elementary school teachers will continue with standards-based grading and report cards as they have for a number of years.

My high school senior is close to meeting their graduation requirements. What are their options?

High school counselors and principals will be engaging with students on their path to graduation. For specific questions, please contact your student’s counselor. They will be the best resource for helping students understand all their options, including how different course loads could affect post-high school plans or athletics/activities eligibility if and when we are able to return to sports and competitions this year. As in typical years, students who meet graduation requirements during first semester may be able to graduate early. For more information on graduation requirements, please see district policy/procedure 2410.

What could a typical day of remote learning look like for a student and family?

Visit our sample schedules webpage for more information.

How do students get textbooks or other supplies from school?

Each school is coordinating systems for supply pickup to get students the materials they need to engage in learning. We continue to be committed to Project Free Education, where families are not asked to pay extra for school supplies.

How can we get help with internet/Wi-Fi or a computer to learn? Can the district help?

Our goal is to ensure that all students PreK-12 have the technology they need for school and access to Wi-Fi from home for remote learning. Thanks to our voter-approved technology levy, all current students in grades K-12 have take-home 1:1 devices. Please use this tech support request form to let us know about any technology needs your family may have.