2021 Winter Newsletter

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Welcome Back

It is often that this kind of welcome occurs during the waning summer days of August, not the cold, Arctic days of February. A few weeks back I was ecstatic to share the joy I saw visiting each classroom of Meridian Middle School and Meridian High School as students returned to their classrooms after more than 10 months of remote learning. This same week, we also expanded our Kindergarten and first-grade students’ in-person learning days at Irene Reither Elementary School. I want to commend our teachers, office personnel, support staff, bus drivers and so many more. Thank you, parents, for your patience as we worked through the details to get to this point. As I visited almost every classroom at each school, it was great to see the smiles (yes – even through their masks) and watch the interaction between our students, teachers, and staff.

It's important to take a moment to trace our steps since Governor Inslee closed schools across Washington on Friday, March 13th. While many districts took that next week to consider the next steps our district jumped into action. By Tuesday we had figured out how to deliver food, compile homework, and started reaching out to our students – almost immediately. I am extremely proud of our teachers, bus drivers, food service, support staff, and administrators. Our technology team mobilized, developed a method to mail work packets home, and distributed what Chromebooks we had. Many of our classified staff helped to distribute learning devices. Graduation was something like we never experienced before. We worked with the hope that we’d end in June and be able to come together in September after the virus slowed down. It feels like a lifetime ago!

Little did we know the virus was going to surge during the summer. Again, our technology team performed Herculean feats to obtain, program, and distribute approximately 2200 new laptops and over 160 Internet hotspots out to our students. Our teachers worked hard to learn Google Classroom (and many other methods to deliver instruction digitally!) All the planning we had put toward starting school in a hybrid model was thrown out the window as we pivoted to run school remotely. If there was one thing we could count on, it was change. Every time we seemed to understand the new protocols or levels of infection we could operate under things changed. We bought a lot of PPE. Our teachers continued to reach out and connect with students – even when the screens stayed off.

As we entered the Fall we brought some students to school – starting with our youngest learners. First our Kindergarten students, then progressing through the grade levels over a month’s time to welcome all our elementary students to Irene Reither in a hybrid model. The entire team at Irene Reither – each person – was incredibly important in our district’s ability to return students to our buildings. They blazed the path by determining the protocols, responding to concerns, managing the craziness that resulted in the changing parameters and guidance from outside agencies. They led the way and we are so proud of them. Thank you, Irene Reither Elementary!

Taking cues from Irene Reither, Meridian Middle School, and Meridian High School brought many students back who required higher levels of support back to in-school instruction between October and November. They then prepared to bring the rest of their students back to their schools at the end of November. And the virus surged, again. We pivoted to hold until the conditions improved. Given the elevated levels of transmissions, the coming holidays, and recognition of the end of the semester, we decided the best way forward was to hold until February 1st.

Even though this all started less than a year ago, it feels as though we have endured much and grown stronger from this. We know it is not done, but as we see vaccines being distributed and the economy opening up, we are excited to improve learning. We know there are things we will need to adjust from what we have typically done. Quite frankly, that’s been the name of the game. And we are more resolute in our determination to get back to being in person and growing together. As we move forward we will continue to look for additional ways to expand the in-person programming in Meridian. Thank you, again, for everyone’s efforts to have our students engaged in in-person learning again!

Committee Involvement

We are going through some growing pains in the Meridian School District. We have many systems and procedures that have emerged through the years. As conditions change and challenges surface over time, procedures have been modified. It hasn’t always been clear who was responsible or what direction was to be followed. Many of our district leaders have been stretched thin while attempting to attend to many critical areas. The result of that circumstance has led to a limit on how well we have been able to address issues – or consider a diversity of perspectives to seek solutions that are sustainable. We are making changes to address those blind spots and increase our efficiencies and connection to the community to listen to those we serve. None of this is to say those who served before us didn’t do the very best they could in the best manner they knew. We know they did. We recognize our context is different than their context. One of the ways we are growing is by addressing areas we have not addressed well in the past – or if we did – it may have been in isolation. We are changing that approach by initiating a task force and two new committees to accomplish some very important work. These may be found under the ‘Our District’ on any Meridian web page and then Meridian Committees & Advisory Groups.

Social Media Task Force
In early January we announced the application process to form a Social Media Task Force. This task force is co-led with Ms. Kaitlyn Michaelson, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, and Mr. Aaron Jacoby, Director of Special Services. Both are members of the Meridian Communication Team. The purpose of the social media task force is to collaboratively develop digital/social media use policies and procedures to improve positive online interactions, experiences, and safety for our students, staff, and community. This group came together for their first meeting on Monday, February 1st. Task forces are typically created for a single purpose and then disbanded. In this case, once the task force recommends a social media policy it will disband.

Equity & Access Committee
This past week we opened the application process for our new Equity & Access Committee. This committee is co-led with Board Directors Ms. Sara Bernardy and Ms. Emily Norton, and our Superintendent, Dr. James Everett. The purpose of this committee is to collaboratively examine equity and access barriers for students and families of the Meridian School District. Our aim is to better understand and address eliminating barriers so we may recognize, embrace, and protect the dignity of each and every student as a valued and important member of our school community. This committee will be ongoing to help improve the experiences of all our students and their families. It will also serve as an advisory group to the District.

Community Involvement Committee
We also opened the application for the other School Board Community Involvement Committee. This committee is co-led with Board Director Mr. Renier Elenbaas and Superintendent Dr. James Everett. The purpose of the Community Involvement Committee is two-fold. There are perennial questions about how to best solicit involvement and support from community members. Pandemic aside, we have struggled to increase engagement and want to invite a diversity of perspectives to help us create opportunities for involvement. Additionally, we want to ensure there are different activities and opportunities for both families directly connected with the school district and those who are in the community, but not directly connected to the district anymore.

Annual Calendar Development Task Force
MSD Board Policy 2200 calls for the development of a new calendar by June 1. We typically have brought a team together by now. As we all know, this is not a typical year! It is time to gather a group to develop an annual calendar – or two. Please go to the Committee & Advisory Groups page on our website to fill out an application by 5:00 pm on Thursday, March 11th. All the roles and the meeting dates are listed. The application is simple and straightforward. Task forces are groups of people brought together for a specific purpose and then disbanded after that purpose has been fulfilled. Thank you, in advance, for your help in creating our next calendar. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions.

Subs Needed!

The Meridian School District is looking for qualified professionals to support our staff as substitutes. Many departments within our district are looking for substitutes. The district is seeking bus drivers, janitorial staff, certificated teachers, and support staff. If you or someone you know is seeking employment please contact the district substitute coordinator, Kaitlyn Michaelson at kmichaelson@meridian.wednet.edu.

The Meridian School District does not discriminate in any programs or activities on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following employee(s) has been designated to handle questions and complaints of alleged discrimination:

Title IX and Compliance Coordinator (RCW 28A.640/28A.642) Kurt Harvill, Assistant Superintendent, kharvill@meridian.wednet.edu Section 504 questions and concerns can be directed to Aaron Jacoby, ajacoby@meridian.wednet.edu, The mailing address for each coordinator is: Meridian School District 214 W. Laurel Rd., Bellingham WA 98226 (360) 398-7111.

Kindergarten Registration

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Kindergarten Registration

Kindergarten Registration for the 2021-2022 school year will begin on March 15, 2021. A student must be 5 years old by August 31, 2021, to be eligible. Enrollment forms will be accessible through Skyward Family Access for current families, and on the Meridian School District website at https://www.meridian.wednet.edu/ire/early-childhood-education-pk-k/ for families registering for the first time in the district. If you know of a kindergarten-age student who lives in the Meridian School District, please help us by encouraging parents/guardians to register the student for kindergarten as soon as possible.

Transitional Kindergarten

We are excited to announce that Transitional Kindergarten will be returning to Irene Reither Elementary School next year! Registration begins on March 15, 2021. Enrollment forms will be accessible through Skyward Family Access for current families, and on the Meridian School District website at https://www.meridian.wednet.edu/ire/early-childhood-education-pk-k/ for families registering for the first time in the district.

What is Transitional Kindergarten? Transitional Kindergarten is a free, full-day early entrance kindergarten experience for children who are scheduled to enter kindergarten the following year. The program is designed to support young children who show they have a need for an extended kindergarten experience. In order to be eligible, students must demonstrate need and cannot be currently enrolled in another early learning program. Eligible students must also turn four (4) by September 1, 2021.

Why is it Important? This program focuses on basic academic and social skills to help qualifying students get a jump start on kindergarten and toward success in school! They will learn about going to school, how to make friends, and early skills for reading and math. We believe our early learners learn a lot through play and engaging hands-on experiences.

Financial Stewardship

While our core work is instruction of our students, we also are great stewards of public funding. As we have adapted to the ever-changing conditions this year, we have made every effort to maximize our revenues while maintaining flexibility to meet our learning needs.

We are excited to share several topics with you demonstrating our financial stewardship. There is so much that has occurred in the last year, but it was just last February when our community came out to strongly support Meridian School District’s levy measures. We thank you for your continued financial support. We would like to update you with what has occurred in the last year. During the levy campaign, we shared projected levy rates for the replacement education program and operations (EP&O) levy, a new technology levy, and the approved 2010 bond measure.

Educational Programs & Operations Levy Update
The current EP&O levy was a replacement for the EP&O levy approved in 2015. An EP&O levy provides tremendous financial support for the ever-increasing educational programming we provide all of our students. Some examples of programming supported by these funds are smaller class sizes, professional development, student health measures, and extra-curricular activities, to name a few. In order to provide the EP&O measure on the ballot, we projected an assessed valuation for the property within the district’s boundaries. We are proud to report we were able to meet our targets and fully utilize the approved levy amount to benefit our students.

Technology Levy Update
The technology levy was the product of a recommendation developed by our educational technology committee. The vision included providing for consistent funding for 1:1 student learning devices and technology infrastructure, improved learning through the hiring of a Director of Teaching & Learning and instructional coaches, as well as ensuring the safety, security, and emergency preparedness of the district. To see the full scope of the EP&O and technology levies, please visit this page. Just as we met our EP&O targets, we also realized the full benefit of the technology levy.

Bond Measure Rate Update
We projected and shared values for each levy rate and the approved 2010 bond measure rate. At the time, the projected bond measure rate was $0.95 per $1000. Over the years, the Meridian School District has sought opportunities to take advantage of favorable interest rates to save taxpayer money. We refinanced our bond measure in 2016 and 2020, reducing the amount for taxpayers over the next 10 years. The combination of our recent refinancing of the bond measure and the increased assessed valuation has resulted in a lowered rate per thousand than we projected last February. The actual bond measure rate is now $0.78 per $1000.

Winter Wishes

“Winter Wishes” at Meridian High School has, for the past ten years, been a seasonal highlight for our high school students and staff. Decembers annually bring themed spirit days, contests, events, a festive assembly with music and fun, and of course, granted wishes in the form of gifts that our students wish for each other. Although nearly all other student and ASB programs have been canceled this school year, Winter Wishes, however, was reimagined, retooled, and ultimately preserved. MHS leadership students again committed to facilitating Winter Wishes this past fall and winter, raising money and gathering donations from local businesses, and--more significantly--families and individuals who shared the belief in the importance of the program this year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our community combined to donate more this year ($14,000+) than in any previous year, allowing Winter Wishes to be granted for clothing, groceries, and driver’s education tuition among the many gifts.

As in past years, all students in the school were allowed to submit wishes anonymously which were carefully and confidentially reviewed. After all, resources were collected, the leadership class assisted in the shopping and wrapping of the gifts. But unlike previous years where students pick up any granted wishes for themselves during the school day before Winter Break, this year, the faculty, staff, and administration of Meridian High School made private deliveries of all the gifts to our students who received them, totaling nearly 150 deliveries. On behalf of the Meridian High School leadership class and the entire student body, thank you for once again demonstrating that our Laurel community is second to none when it comes to supporting our schools and our students when we need that support the most!

Thank You, Meridian School District Board of Directors!

Each of Washington State’s 295 districts has a board of locally elected directors, representing specific districts within their school district boundaries to govern the district for four-year terms. Meridian School District has five school board members – each representing their respective area districts as unpaid volunteers. District 1 is represented by Sara Bernardy, District 2 is represented by Renier Elenbaas, District 3 is represented by Emily Norton, District 4 is represented by Board Chair Marty Gray, and District 5 is represented by Board Vice-Chair Craig Mitchell. It is with great appreciation that we recognize our School Board members. It is common for our School Board Directors to serve multiple four-year terms. Their devotion and commitment to the Meridian School District are commendable and deserving of our gratitude.

Personnel Updates

Thank You, Mr. Sanderson

It was almost a month ago that Mr. Jerry Sanderson informed us he was going to take a leave for the remainder of the school year. This news spurred us to post for an interim principal to lead Meridian Middle School for the remainder of this school year. This past week Mr. Sanderson shared he has decided to retire from nearly four decades of serving students in the Meridian School District. Mr. Sanderson began as a second-grade teacher at Irene Reither Primary School and held teaching positions at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grades. While at Meridian Middle School he served as the middle school activities coordinator and administrator’s/principal’s designee for many years. He has capped his career and honored to serve as principal of Meridian Middle School for 18 years. He was named the interim principal in 2002 and became the principal in 2003.

Mr. Sanderson shared, “I was proud to be able to watch my own kids attend and progress through the Meridian system from grades K through to their high school graduation. This community and this school system are and will always be a part of my soul. I am happy that I have been able to serve for so many years.”

Four decades in any profession is remarkable. When one stops to consider the number of children and families impacted by Mr. Sanderson over that span, it is extraordinary. We want your help to honor the dedication and commitment Mr. Sanderson has shown the Meridian community. We know many of you have stories and experiences with him he would love to revisit – especially if they come from you. Many of us in education continue and continue, trusting there is an impact. Sometimes we receive feedback. Most times we don’t. For those of you with something to share, please click this link to share your memories with and for Mr. Sanderson: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/sandersonmemories. We will honor him a bit later this Spring – and your stories will be an important part of that celebration. We will leave this survey open until March 12. Thank you. And, THANK YOU, MR. SANDERSON!

Welcome, Mr. Torgeson

It is with great pleasure that we introduce Meridian Middle School’s new Interim Principal, Mr. Todd Torgeson. Mr. Torgeson is a second-generation educator. He has served 27 years in education as a teacher, coach, and administrator. Mr. Torgeson received his B.A. Degree from Eastern Washington University, an M.Ed. from Heritage University while attaining his principal certification. He also recently completed coursework and received his superintendent certification from Western Washington University. Mr. Torgeson worked in the La Conner School District as a middle and high school principal and in the Sedro-Woolley School District as an assistant principal and athletic director. He also taught and coached in the Concrete School District. Over the course of his career, Mr. Torgeson served as a head football, basketball, and golf coach. He was also an assistant baseball coach. All of these activities created opportunities to develop positive relationships with students. He is very proud of his family. He and his wife, Paula, have been married for 30 years. They have three wonderful children: Terrel, Taylor, and Emma. Mr. Torgeson also has a strong connection to Whatcom County. His Dad, Tom, made ice cream at Edaleen Dairy for many years. Mr. Torgeson is honored to work in the Meridian School District and excited to begin the work of supporting the great staff and students of Meridian Middle School.

Hallie Whitsell, Instructional Dean!

It is an important message expressing the core aspect of our work at Meridian: instruction. We are continuing to improve our craft – interrupted by this pandemic. Regardless, we are still moving forward with important improvements to that end. We know the highest impact on a child’s education is the impact of an effective classroom teacher. To help us increase the instructional skill of our teachers we created an Instructional Dean role at Irene Reither Elementary School. Emphasis is on ensuring our teachers are highly skilled at instruction. Ms. Hallie Whitsell, previously a 4th-grade teacher, has been an incredible asset to our district’s goal of emphasizing instructional skills. She has been a 4th-grade teacher and transitioned to the new role as the Instructional Dean of Students this school year. In this role, Ms. Whitsell has supported staff with best-practice teaching while also making sure student discipline is maintained. Families will also see Ms. Whitsell at parent drop-off and parent pick-up each day. We are excited for the staff and students at the elementary school to have Ms. Whitell in this new role!

MHS Athletics and Activities

Sports and activities for the high school are back up and running! With the new guidance issued by the Governor, DOH, and WIAA fall sports are able to start practice. Football, Cross Country, and Cheerleading started Monday, February 1st and Volleyball and Girls Soccer started Monday, February 8th.

Games for each sport started on the week of February 15th. In order for these games to take place, our Region needs to get to Phase 2. Once in Phase 2, we will need to keep Covid-19 case numbers low in order to keep competing.

We are also rolling out a few new technology things specifically for athletics and activities. We will no longer be using nwcathletics.com for sports information and schedules. We will now be using meridiantrojans.com as our official school district athletics webpage.

Additionally, we have started live-streaming sporting events using a platform called justagamelive.com. All streaming games will be accessible from meridiantrojans.com. We are adding and configuring additional cameras to enhance the virtual viewing experience.

Pandemic Impact on Technology

When the pandemic initially shut schools down in March last year, we had very little technology dedicated for students to use away from school. In fact, we didn’t have any foundation established for the 1:1 educational learning initiative that was approved by voters just a month earlier. By law, levies aren’t collected or funded until the following calendar year of the election. That would make our first collection for the technology levy in April of 2021.

With no 1:1 technology infrastructure, our response to serving students in the spring of 2020 rested on printing packets, mailing them to families, and teachers reaching out. It was inefficient, costly, difficult for feedback to occur, and unsustainable. That said, our teachers worked extremely hard to make connections, host Zoom meetings, and provide feedback. We knew we needed to do something drastic to increase our connections to our students prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

During the summer months, we secured a lease to outfit our district with 2200 devices to facilitate an effective 1:1 technology program. It delivered a Chromebook device to our students in 2nd grade and above while supplying an iPad to younger students. This provided us the means to establish Google Classrooms and connect with our students in a way we were unable to do so previously. At the time, every school district in the country was competing for a rapidly diminishing supply of technology devices. It is a testament to our technology department as they worked non-stop to get an order placed. We were extremely fortunate to secure devices in time to configure and deliver them to our students for the start of the school year.

This pandemic has thrust the 1:1 technology into the hands of our students and teachers much earlier than we had planned. Our technology levy was approved for the next 4 years. We planned to build our infrastructure, hire instructional coaches, and train our teachers on how to embed technology into their teaching repertoire from Spring 2020 to Spring of 2022. The pandemic forced us to flip our plan around. Our teachers had to adopt new methods of instruction in a whole new learning environment. We are continuing to address the professional development needs of our district to ensure we are utilizing the tools to increase learning. As we navigate the pandemic we will emerge stronger than we were before. The need for moving to a 1:1 technology learning initiative was always to become stronger in our ability to deliver quality learning experiences and increase teaching effectiveness. See the plan by clicking here: Meridian Educational Technology Initiative.

Teaching and Learning

When schools closed last spring in response to the pandemic, Meridian staff had to quickly figure out how to keep student learning moving forward, even though students and staff were not in the buildings. In the Spring of 2020, teachers shifted their instruction and began to develop weekly activities that students could do at home. Staff in each building worked to make sure students had what they needed to keep learning. They packed and mailed home boxes of learning materials: books, markers and crayons, papers, and even clay. Weekly learning activities were sent electronically to students with access to technology and printed and mailed home for those who needed paper materials.

Over the summer, with support from funding from the Meridian Technology Levy, our technology department was able to secure and distribute iPads or Chromebooks to every Meridian student. This student technology access provided our teachers and staff more ways to connect with students to support their learning remotely. Our teachers have found creative and innovative ways to keep students engaged in educational activities. At every Meridian school, teachers are using tools such as instructional videos and interactive on-line activities to keep students engaged with learning activities when they cannot be on campus. Teachers and paraeducators also have been able to use Zoom video conferencing to connect with students and provide instruction while students are learning at home.

A Few Highlights

Irene Reither

Irene Reither Elementary adopted new reading materials this year from American Reading Company. To make sure that students could access their independent reading materials at home, we provided on-line access to the curriculum’s digital bookshelf with hundreds of books that students could access using their school devices. While we were remote, teachers were able to use Zoom to engage students in reading conferences targeting each student’s learning needs.

Meridian Middle School

Students in the band program at Meridian Middle School were able to use their Chromebooks to record themselves playing their instruments at home. They shared those recordings with the band teacher Sandy Rogers so she could hear their progress and provide feedback. Ms. Rogers was even able to learn to use audio editing software to put together some of the students’ recordings so they could hear themselves playing as a band.

Meridian High School

At Meridian High School, teachers found creative ways to keep the learning moving forward even for classes that are typically hands-on or lab-based. Some MHS art students were sent materials to work on their art projects at home. Mike Holtz’s Ceramics and Pottery students submitted pictures of their work in progress and were invited to bring their final pieces back to the school to be bisque fired. Horticulture students in Maria Schatz’s classes picked up germination kits from the high school and sprouted their own seeds in CD cases. Her Floral Design students created corsage bows and practiced their wiring skills with materials that were sent home. Brent Feller’s Intro to Agricultural Mechanics students were able to use an online curriculum to learn engine theory and parts identification. Their culminating project was disassembling and reassembling a short block engine at home. As we were safely able to do so, students in Welding were able to come back to campus in small numbers to use equipment that they did not have access to at home.

Meridian Parent Partnership Program

The Meridian Parent Partnership Program is Meridian School District’s K-8th grade alternative learning program. Each student at MP3 has a personalized learning plan and makes weekly contact with a certified teacher. With strong parental involvement, parents provide the at-home instruction and have flexibility with setting up a learning schedule. While many activities had to stop when in-person school ended, MP3 staff and families have worked hard to provide educational opportunities for students through the past year in new ways. MP3's art teacher, Sara Warnock, blazed new trails with her monthly art lesson delivered to our families. Students have been creating beautiful pieces of art while learning about different artists, different mediums, and the basics of perspective, line, and color. In another of many examples, last spring, middle schooler, Ethan Oscarson approached Shellie Phillips, MP3's literacy teacher, and requested advice on starting a student-led newspaper. This newspaper, The Vibe, has continued to thrive and has been a valuable way for students to connect with each other, share their work, and celebrate the writing process.

Leveraging COVID Grants

The COVID-19 pandemic has been costly for districts around the country. The acquisition of technology devices and supporting families with Internet access, lowered student enrollment, the purchasing of personal protection equipment, new staff leaves, the lack of transportation funding due to established revenue formulas and the need to deliver food and learning materials have all had an enormous impact on school district budgets. While Meridian School District has seen student enrollment increase this year, we are not immune to the higher costs listed above. In response to the growing expenditures and needs of the district, we have sought out partnerships enabling us to prepare and respond to the ever-changing landscape of the last eleven months. We want to share the funding sources and how they have contributed to our overall program.

Through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Meridian School District acquired $231,700 from the first allocation of federal support dollars, referred to as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). Safety has been a strong element in how we responded to this emergency – especially in the Spring when we were less informed about the impact of COVID-19. Securing safety measures such as protection dividers, floor markings, personal protection equipment like hand sanitizer, gloves, face masks, and other items were purchased with this grant. We also made upgrades to our air filtering capacity. This funding also provided support to distribute food and instructional and learning materials. As we made the shift from in-person to remote support, we needed specific software to help in the effort. We purchased communication and remote assessment software, remote learning teaching supplies, and peripherals for laptops we distributed for 1:1 devices. These items allowed us to establish protocols, acquire needed supplies and define how we were going to operate as we moved toward the Fall of 2020.

A positive new partnership for us this year was with the Whatcom County Council. They sponsored a CARES Technology Grant of $230,000 for Meridian School District. These funds helped us jumpstart the 1:1 device purchase. 81% of this grant went directly to funding Chromebooks, iPads, and cases for our students. 19% updated our teacher laptops so both students and teachers had the capable technology to learn and teach in a remote environment.

While acquiring the technology was a significant change in how we would be teaching and our students would be learning, we are appreciative of the Whatcom County CARES Health grant which provided a number of software tools for our district. The grant was $79,560 and allowed us to secure online assessment software, communication learning tools like Zoom, ScreenCastify, SeeSaw, and EDpuzzle. It also provided additional online learning resources for CTE, music, and reading, to name a few.

While these grants have certainly supported the increased costs and needs for our district due to the completely different learning environment we found ourselves in, we continue to seek and secure additional funding to support improving the learning environment and process. We have also secured a grant for families in need of Internet connectivity. There is an additional round of federal funding, ESSER II, which is targeted toward addressing learning loss, preparing schools for reopening and testing, and repairing and upgrading projects to improve air quality. It will also support the acquisition of additional staff needed for supervision, substitute and staffing support, and outreach to historically underrepresented communities of students.

We appreciate the financial and community support – as well as our new partnerships as we have worked through the challenges we have seen in the past year. All of the above-mentioned grant funds are one-time monies we are using to help us in our work of teaching students. We are leveraging these funds to navigate this expensive pandemic environment to create and sustain a safe and productive learning environment.

Student Services

The Past Year

Over the past year, the Special Services Department, like the rest of the district, has been navigating the impacts COVID-19 has had on the work of supporting students. While each segment of the department has been impacted in different ways, the staff have tackled this past year with a desire to learn more about how to best support students given the challenges presented.

Our Student Health Services staff have been an integral part of our school's reopening. The school nurses have taken part in our building walkthroughs as we have set procedures and protocols for students being back on campus. Their communication with the Whatcom County Health Department and colleagues throughout the region has been critical in creating the strongest systems to help protect student and staff safety. In addition, the school nurses are tracking and communicating with students and staff who enter our district protocols when they experience symptoms related to COVID.

With students back on campus, the school nurses and health room attendants have traveled the district to support student arrival health checks. They’ve also continued their traditional work of supporting student health plans, ensuring immunization documentation, and serving students during health room visits.

Special Education has shifted toward the use of remote learning opportunities and utilized a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities to engage students in tackling their IEP goals. Special education teachers and specialist staff (Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapist, and Speech-Language Pathologists) have worked hard to establish regular contact with students and families to provide instruction and monitoring of goal progress via Zoom. These remote services will continue throughout hybrid learning in an effort to maximize the amount of time students spend with their teachers and peers while they are on campus.

In addition to continuing to provide services, the department continues to perform assessments and evaluations to determine eligibility for special education services. This work has been ongoing throughout the past year.

Child Find

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires the Meridian School District to provide children with disabilities, ages birth to 21, be identified, located, and evaluated. If anyone suspects a child (age birth to 21) has a disabling condition, and that child resides in the Meridian School District, pleaser contact the Director of Special Services, Aaron Jacoby, at 360.318.2155 or ajacoby@meridian.wednet.edu.

FlashAlert System

Meridian School District continues to partner with FlashAlert.net for emergency school closure and school delay information. As you may know, we have adjusted our approach to closing school for inclement weather. We will alert all of you if we are needing to shift our in-person school days to remote school days because of the weather or some other interruption to our regular operation. Each building principal should have already communicated what that may look like for your specific child. If you are unsure, please contact your child’s teacher, principal, or school office. This will typically occur the evening before. Sign up at http://www.flashalert.net/signup.html for free to receive a text message any time that we declare an emergency closure or delay or go to http://www.flashalertseattle.net/ for news on local school closures or delays.

Safe Schools

Safety is one of Meridian School District’s top priorities and to help safeguard our school community, we’ve taken an important step. Meridian School District uses SafeSchools Alert, a tip reporting service that allows students, staff, and parents to submit safety concerns to our administration in four different ways:

1. Phone: (855) 977-0973

2. Text: Text your tip to (855) 977-0973

3. Email: 1449@alert1.us

4. Web: http://1449.alert1.us

You and your child can easily report tips on bullying, harassment, drugs, vandalism, or any safety issue you're concerned about through SafeSchools Alert. Every tip SafeSchools Alert receives about our district is immediately logged in the system and our administration is notified so that they can investigate and take appropriate action. Tips may also be submitted anonymously through these same


Elimination of Athletic Participation Fees

For quite some time there has been a desire to minimize barriers to our students. One of the pressing areas has been around the continued athletic pay-to-play fees and ASB card fees for our middle and high school students. Originally put in place in the mid-2000s, the athletic fees were designed to help address the costs for traveling long distances for athletic contests and to help pay for officiating fees. Over time, the league has been reconfigured, resulting in less traveling for contests. The district’s commitment is to reduce barriers to student participation and financial burdens for our families. Additionally, the hardships of this past year and shortened seasons were contributing factors in our proposal to eliminate these fees.

At Wednesday’s Board meeting the fees for 2020-2021 school year were modified to eliminate both athletic participation and ASB card fees for all middle and high school students. We recognize there are still additional fees charged to students for curricular and extracurricular activities. We will continue to address these barriers in the future. Over the years the MSD Booster Club has provided financial support to many students. We thank and appreciate them for their ongoing support and anticipate there will still be needs for students. Everything we can do to help our district be more inclusive underscores our commitment to our students and families. We appreciate the support of the MSD School Board and everything everyone in our district has done and will do, to ensure an amazing Meridian experience!

MHS Graduation Date Confirmed

At the Wednesday, February 24th MSD Board Meeting, the Board confirmed MHS's graduation date for Wednesday, June 9th. Due to the COVID-19 virus, we will have to consider conditions at the time of graduation and share more specific details for what graduation will look like at that time. We are looking forward to celebrating the class of 2021 and want to assure all families our graduation celebrations will be in line with local health guidance.

Remember to Vote!

Every voice counts, remember to vote! Please see the link below for a list of upcoming Washington voting dates and deadlines.