Re-Opening School for the 2020-2021 School Year
Dear Staff and Parents,
I hope that you are having a nice summer.
We have an incredible community here in Ellensburg. I want to thank every student, staff member and parent who participated in one of our nine focus groups. We had over 250 stakeholders participate in these focus groups and had over 1,000 responses to the district-wide survey. The purpose of this process with the focus groups was to promote dialogue about the multiple challenges that are involved in both a hybrid and a “ bring all students back” model. The purpose of the polls that were taken within the focus groups and survey was to gather input about people's preferences. For example, during one of the last stakeholder groups that we facilitated (with over 70 participants including parents, students and staff) on June 17th, we attempted to come to a consensus around one of the two models. When we did a straw poll at the end of this four-hour session, there was an almost 50/50 split between those that favored the hybrid model and those that favored bringing all students back ( with 52% favoring the hybrid and 48% preferring bringing all students back). While we were engaged in this process, the CDC guidelines were to promote six foot distancing. Towards the conclusion of our overall process, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) announced that having desks six foot apart in classrooms was now a requirement. https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/communications/Reopening%20Washington%20Schools%20FAQ%20for%20School%20Districts.pdf
As a district, we are required to follow OSPI's guidance. Our desire is to have all students back in school every day but to also decrease the risk factors as much as possible.
Additionally, we acknowledge that starting the year in a hybrid model creates challenges for parents concerning childcare, and we know that it can be extremely frustrating to find this type of support . We anticipate that the hybrid model will be temporary, as we assess our ability to bring all students back to school as safely as possible. Right now we hope to move to a “students at school five days a week” model by the end of first quarter, as long as we get the green light from Kittitas County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson. I am also on the Kittitas County Health Network Board and am working together with this group to bring some of our childcare and community groups together to potentially apply for a grant that would promote community-wide efforts in providing childcare support to parents.
What Does ESD Currently Have in Place for Next Year?
We will start the year with a hybrid A/B model. Students will be placed into A or B groups by looking at ways, as much as possible, to keep students from the same family within the same A or B group. Students in the A group will attend school on Mondays and Thursdays. Students in the B group will attend school on Tuesdays and Fridays. Teachers will use Wednesdays for planning, professional development, grading, managing remote learning,etc. We anticipate being able to notify parents about which group their child is in by late July or early August.
We are needing to stick to this timeline because of the process that we are required to follow as we select the Learning Management System (LMS) that we will use for the ESD Virtual Online Academy for next year. We will bring our recommendation about this programming to the ESD Board of Education on July 22nd for their approval. After this meeting, all parents will receive specific information about the Virtual Academy and be given an opportunity to sign their child up for this option. Students in this online program will still be able to participate in sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities associated with their home school.
In order to maintain a strong and functioning transportation department and to provide the necessary flexibility needed for next year, we will be implementing a tiered busing system. A tiered system would include potentially having elementary students on the earlier route and the secondary students on the later route. While we understand that this could be an issue when secondary students have to leave early for extra-curricular events, we believe that the benefits could outweigh the costs. Also, because of COVID-19, there will be much less traveling in general for students to other districts. Additionally, research by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics supports the practice of having teenagers attend school later and to get more sleep in the morning. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/3/642 We also want to establish a system that could be used long term, so when we are fortunate enough to have students back in school 5-days/wk this year, we won't have to change their bus routing and create another disruption for our families to negotiate. For more information click "Tiered Routing System" document below. Final information about bus routing will also be communicated to parents late July or early August.
We are in the process of ordering the necessary equipment for next year including masks, shields, disinfectant, etc. We are purchasing single person desks where necessary and working together with schools to set up classrooms so that students are appropriately socially-distanced when seated at their desks. A more detailed description of safety measures that ESD will be taking will be shared later this summer. Again the safety of staff and students, following the guidelines issued by OSPI, is at the forefront of our efforts in reopening our schools.
For additional information, click the below pdf. to access the ESD FAQ document.
New Opportunity in ESD
ESD Board Director Jennifer Hackett recently stepped down from her position on the ESD Board of Education. On behalf of ESD, I want to thank Director Hackett for her exceptional leadership. ESD is currently looking for a new Board member to join the ESD School Board of Directors. This is an exciting time to be an ESD Board Director, with the building of two new schools and the remodeling of Lincoln Elementary School. Having a diverse background is also a characteristic that the Board is looking for in candidates applying for this at-large position. Please click here__https://forms.gle/6Meq2cZcFAd8HNtW9 if you are interested.
TEAM: Together Everyone Accomplishes More
I was recently at the New Mt. Stuart site, and it was exciting to see the progress that has been made there on the foundation, as well as, the steps that have been taken to connect Cora street to the site of our new school. Click here for more information about this construction project.https://www.esd401.org/community/elementary-schools-construction/mt-stuart-elementary
I am looking forward to our future as we work collaboratively with students, staff, parents and community members to support the whole child and promote excellence in ESD.
Together we can do this. We are ESD STRONG!
Jinger Haberer, Superintendent of ESD