Sherwood Schools: District Updates
April 16, 2021
April Board Meeting
On Wednesday, our Board of Directors held their monthly meeting; the video of that meeting can be viewed on our YouTube channel here. Below you will find highlighted information from a number of the topics discussed at the Board meeting.
Board Meeting Highlight: Spring 2021 In-Person Instructional Hours
Staff members in our Teaching and Learning Department have recently completed an analysis of the in-person instructional hours that students will attend in total this spring. This analysis included SSD, as well as several school districts within the Portland metro area. Average hours per day were calculated based on the number of hours students spend in school, in-person including activities like lunch and recess.
Kindergarten & First Grade Hours
At the elementary level, our kindergarten and first grade students started school a week prior to grades 2-5, so a separate analysis was completed for those grades. In both versions of our elementary in-person hours analysis, our district will be providing significantly more in-person hours to students than other districts included in the analysis. This is due in large part to the ability of our elementary schools to provide a 5 days-per-week schedule --making us one of the only districts in the metro area to do so -- as well as our efforts to open our elementary schools in early March.
Middle School Hours
At the middle school level, a longer daily schedule and the “A/B cohort rotation” model once again puts our district in the lead for total in-person hours for this spring.
High School Hours
Board Meeting Highlight: Update on Ready Schools, Safe Learners
On April 2, the Oregon Department of Education released an update to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance. Some of the highlights of this guidance include the elimination of a cohort size of 100 students and changes in social distancing requirements for students within classrooms from 6ft to 3ft. The update also clarified that during meals, passing times, and some other non-classroom areas, students must continue to maintain a 6ft social distancing requirements.
While our new high school building and the opening of our Transformations buildings provide much needed capacity within our district, none of our schools were designed to accommodate the limitations inherent to maintaining social distancing in spaces such as cafeterias and hallways. The remaining guidance for 6ft of social distancing in these areas create obstacles to bringing greater numbers of students on campus at the same time. Our teams have been successful in creating Hybrid plans that work with those limiting aspects of the guidance, while still allowing our district to provide an quantity of in-person hours that makes us a leader in the metro area. As such, we will be continuing with implementation of our existing Hybrid plans.
However, the guidance updates do provide much needed flexibility, allowing our teams to explore bringing our most vulnerable students on campus more frequently, as well as to begin planning for fall 2021. We continue to move forward in this planning, with a focus on full-time, 5 days-per-week in-person instruction for all students in the coming school year.
Board Meeting Highlight: 2021-22 Academic Calendar
Board Meeting Highlight: Summer Program 2021
This year, the State of Oregon will be providing school districts with additional funding to support academic and enrichment programs in the summer months. This funding source allows our district the opportunity to create a more robust in-person summer program this year, and to do so without charging tuition. While the planning for this summer program is still underway, we know that our offerings will focus on connections with peers, social-emotional supports for students, and academic skill building. Additionally, our high school students will have opportunities for credit recovery. The dates for our summer program will be June 21st-July 15th; please stay tuned for more details, including sign-up information, in the coming weeks.
Pre-Kindergarten for 2021-22 School Year
Last week we shared with you our plans to launch Pre-Kindergarten programs next year at both Ridges and Hawks View, and we are excited to announce that applications are now available! Our new programs in the coming year will be inclusive, providing rich early learning opportunities for typically developing children, as well as children with developmental delays and disabilities. Our goal is to provide our early learners with the social-emotional and academic skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Applications and additional information can be found on our Pre-Kindergarten webpage. We will be accepting applications starting April 16, 2021. There will be 20 slots available at each site. Please contact email@example.com with any questions.
Change to District Credit Rating
On Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service released an updated credit rating for Sherwood School District, which has prompted some discussion within the community. The Moody’s rating for SSD changed, going down one rating level from Aa3 to A1. This change is the result of Moody’s recently adjusting their K-12 school district rating methodology for General Obligations (GO) Bonds. Sherwood recently took out $247.50 million in GO bonds to pay for the new high school, deferred maintenance, and other projects related to the bond measure passed in the Sherwood community in 2016. In addition, the rating includes an assessment of a district’s ending fund balance, however increasing the ending fund balance to create additional reserves would necessitate reducing services to students. The Sherwood School District has chosen not to boost their rating at the expense of programs and services for our students.
The new methodology used by Moody’s means Oregon school districts, in particular, are penalized under their new approach to evaluating debt. Moody’s no longer measures debt as a percentage of the value of our school district properties. Instead, debt is now measured solely as a percentage of our budget and our debt owed.
This rating change does not impact the District or community tax payers, and there is no effect on our debt interest rates. This rating is strictly informational/advisory for investors who may be looking at buying outstanding GO Bonds issued by the Sherwood School District.
Planning for Next Fall
We are so excited to see students returning to our schools in-person! It is one of the many things happening that gives us hope for a return to some sense of normalcy as we approach summer and fall. As we plan for the 2021-22 school year, we are doing so with that in mind and are preparing for students to be attending school in-person, every day, full-time in all of our schools. As has been the case for the past year, we will be responsive to guidance from the Oregon Department of Education, etc. as we enter into next school year.
One positive way in which school may look different next year, for those who choose this option, comes from what we have learned in the pandemic - how to teach students in a virtual environment. Many students and families have stated that a distance learning model works better for them. With that in mind, the District is currently exploring ways to offer a Cloud Campus option, with families continuing to have discretion in selecting the instructional model that is the best fit for their student(s). As we further develop these plans, we will share more information in future updates.