Superintendent's Message

January 15th, 2021

Good Morning, Meridian Families and Students,

There are a few important topics to share with you this morning: Mr. Sanderson’s leave of absence, an update on more hybrid learning, and approval of our 2020-2021 calendar revisions.

However, I want to start with an appreciation for our outstanding Meridian School Board of Directors. January is School Board Appreciation Month in Washington. Board Chair Marty Gray, Vice-Chair Craig Mitchell, Director Renier Elenbaas, Director Sara Bernardy, and Director Emily Norton volunteer an incredible number of hours to ensure the governance of Meridian School District continues through all manner of circumstances. Their collective wisdom and collaboration help guide us to provide support and opportunities to our children. Their engagement is greatly appreciated. On behalf of our entire district, please join me in recognizing and thanking our MSD School Board of Directors. Visit our School Board web page if you would like to connect and thank any of our Directors.

I also want to share an appreciation for the feedback all our families provided about where they plan for their students to learn during the second semester. We have been able to make staffing adjustments, increase our in-person opportunities for our youngest learners, and adjust our educational programs to support all of our students with in-person learning starting February 1st. Information will be coming over the next week or so to help everyone prepare for the second semester. Thank you!

Leave of Absence
Mr. Sanderson has decided to take a leave of absence through the end of June 2021. We typically would not announce this decision, however, as principal, Mr. Sanderson’s leave will impact Meridian Middle School. Mr. Sanderson shared his decision with his staff this morning. This afternoon we will post for an interim principal to lead Meridian Middle School for the rest of the school year. Over the next two weeks, we will be engaged in our hiring process, involving district and middle school staff, as well as community members and students. Additional information for those interested in participating in the hiring process will be shared early next week.

Update on Start of Hybrid Learning
We are pleased to share that beginning Monday, February 1, Kindergarten and first-grade students will start in-person learning on Irene Reither’s Campus four days per week, Monday-Thursday, in groups of 14 to 20 students.

Additionally, we have students in grades 6-12 who will be starting in-person learning on campus two days per week, either Monday-Tuesday or Wednesday-Thursday- in groups of 15 to 20 students. Orientation and other information will be coming to families soon from their school principals through email, weekly updates, or voicemail.

The decision to start bringing students back to school is based on guidance issued December 16 by Gov. Jay Inslee, the state Department of Health, and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Emphasis on this new framework, as a whole, has been a shift from the hard threshold numbers from the earlier K-12 Decision Tree document. Please read Health Officer's Updated Recommendations for Phased Reopening of K-12 Schools, Dr. Stern’s December 20 recommendation, where he characterized this shift. Health officials based their new guidance on experience nationally over the last few months that shows when students and staff follow specific safety protocols, such as wearing a face covering, washing hands regularly, and staying six feet apart, the transmission of COVID-19 in schools is limited.

This has been our experience at Irene Reither Elementary School, where we began serving students in-person in mid-September. Since November, we have been serving students with high needs in-person at both Meridian Middle School and Meridian High School. To date, we have not experienced a school transmission of COVID-19.

Yesterday, January 14th, I joined the rest of Whatcom County’s superintendents in meeting with Dr. Greg Stern, WCDOH Health Officer, because of the recent increase in community transmission rates. He shared the framework is still valid, even with recent increases, and indicated he would be providing additional information, along with new FAQ information provided by the Whatcom County Department of Health, early next week. When that information is shared I will again give an update on our process and reference the additional resources. Given what was shared in yesterday’s meeting we continue to follow the recommendations of the Whatcom County Department of Health and continue to plan for the return of our students in grades 6-12 on February 1st, the first day of the second semester.

Approved: 2020-2021 Calendar Revisions
At our January 13th School Board Meeting a revised calendar for the second semester was approved. The ability to pivot to teach remotely when we are faced with inclement weather has allowed us to eliminate established calendar snow days and shorten our calendar by two days. This makes our last student day June 15th (previously June 17th) and moves the MHS graduation to June 9th (previously June 15th), which will remain tentative until the graduation date is confirmed at the February 24 MSD Board Meeting. This revision also moves a staff development day (non-student day) to Friday, May 21st (previously May 17th). The updated calendar may be seen by clicking here.