Fife Public Schools

A Message from Superintendent Alfano

September 25, 2020

Dear Fife Public Schools Community,

I wanted to update you on a few things about our recent request of you to complete a quick Skyward survey. Yes, the survey is very short, but we understand the implications for you, your student, and even your family are significant. PLEASE NOTE: the survey deadline will be extended until Monday, September 28 at 5:00 PM!

As we look ahead and plan for a potential return to in-person learning in Fife, we are trying our best to get our heads around the many variables that we will be operating under for the time being. This email will address a few of those variables and hopefully help you understand the rationale behind our thinking.

First, a return to in-person learning for all grades in Fife will be slow when we start the transition. It should be noted, the transition to our hybrid learning model from our current Continuous Learning 2.0 model will only occur when it is safe to do so according to the Department of Health's Decision Tree for K-12 schools. Additionally, the case counts listed in the moderate range of the Decision Tree matrix need to be in the lower half and/or be trending downward.

Like all districts in our county, region and state, we will begin our transition with our youngest learners - Pre-school, Kindergarten, and 1st-3rd grade. There are three reasons to start here:

  1. Youngest learners struggle the most with distance learning.

  2. Youngest learners are at a critical stage in their development.

  3. Younger students appear to experience milder COVID-19 related symptoms and transmit the virus less according to the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department.

Once the above grade levels have returned to school on their modified schedule, grades 4-5, 6-9, and 10-12 will return in a staggered sequence. Again, this will occur over a period of weeks and only if case counts in our county and region remain significantly low and stable. What we are currently asking of you is to log into Skyward and complete the survey for each of your children. Will they return to class 2 days per week in our hybrid learning model, or will they continue with our online Continuous Learning 2.0 model?

I understand, from a parent’s perspective, the choice is not so easy when factoring in other variables. Our communication to you has been honest and will remain so. We also need to remind you that, when all scheduling is finalized, the teacher your child started the year with might not remain your child’s teacher after our hybrid model commences. This is significant for some parents and not so much for others, but here is why that may happen.

Similar to giving you a choice to have your child return to in person learning, we are also faced with the reality that not all of our current staff members can return to in-person work. We remain, after all, in the midst of a global pandemic. Some parents are simply choosing to keep their children at home out of an abundance of caution. Some parents have underlying health conditions (and some students do as well) that prevent them from over exposure to other people. Likewise, we have nearly 500 staff members in Fife Public Schools, and some of them have similar concerns and/or health needs that prevent them from returning.

Consequently, not all teachers will be returning to school when we begin the transition to our hybrid learning model. Some teachers will be asked to continue teaching in our online model, and they will teach those students who are not returning in person. Asking you to make a choice for each of your children will help us identify the total number of students who will participate in each of the models (hybrid and online) concurrently. It bears mentioning it would not be appropriate to ask a teacher, or any staff member, what their personal situation will be moving forward related to COVID-19. COVID leaves are considered medical related leaves in a preventative form. Like all medical information, this information is highly confidential and not something the district or any of our employees share publicly.

We are also working with our association leaders to make sure work conditions are safe and meet all Labor and Industry standards and guidelines.

As you can see, we have two significant variables we are working on:

  1. Which of our 3800 students will be returning and which will not?

  2. Which of our staff will be returning to work, and which will need accommodations and/or leave?

When the collection of this information is finalized (and we are close to doing so), we will begin the scheduling process. This process will begin at FHS. Why? The simplest reason is the high school has the most complicated student and staff schedule because of the many diverse course options available. After FHS completes it’s hybrid scheduling, CJH will be next, followed by SLMS and finally our three elementary schools.

The first priority will be getting multi-child families on the same Day A/Day B schedule:

  • “A” days are in-person learning on Tuesday & Thursday

  • “B” days are in-person learning on Wednesday & Friday

  • Mondays will continue to as they currently are for all students.

There will be little wiggle room for change requests, outside of very unique circumstances, because of the balancing that has to occur to ensure we meet all of the physical distancing and safety requirements that come with in-person learning.

The above information addresses our two biggest factors when it comes to planning our hybrid learning model. However, I am sure you can imagine there are many, many more considerations at play. Transportation safety, food service decisions, curriculum changes, physical distancing requirements and protocols - all of which are being addressed by our various department teams concurrently.

In closing, I hope this email helps you understand our thinking, planning, and processes with more clarity. We will continue to communicate details about our return as they are available. We will also communicate when this transition might begin. We are tentatively looking at the middle to end of October, but that is still very tentative. November could very well be the month we aim for. The case count numbers in the county need to cooperate (trending downward), and our school board needs to approve our plan of action and timelines - all of which are still in draft form at this point in time. Again, we will communicate with you on a regular basis as we navigate through the information and planning process.

More information will be coming soon. In the meantime, stay safe and stay healthy.