Superintendent's Message

Meridian School District

Return to School for Middle & High School Students

Good Evening. By now you have likely heard of the new rates Governor Inslee has approved by the Washington State DOH to provide guidance to schools for bringing students back to school campuses. At his press conference last Thursday he outlined new guidelines. You can see the content of Governor Inslee's announcement here and see the new guidelines here. I want you to know that as the new threshold levels are much greater than has been communicated previously. We are still planning to follow the recommendation and proposal to welcome our secondary students back to our schools on the first day of the second semester, February 1st. We are also continuing our partnership with the Whatcom County Health Department and will confirm the conditions are correct to do so before bringing students back to school.


Some districts will move to bring older students to their campuses sooner the February 1. We do not see a scenario where we would bring the entirety of our middle and high school students to our campuses prior to February 1st. There is too much to do to prepare and we have not yet had a holiday where transmissions haven’t spiked shortly after. There needs to be time to gauge that landscape. I do not see bringing these same students to our campuses in mid-January as there would only be two weeks left before the end of the first semester. Routines are established and students will be working to wrap up this first semester. Introducing a week or two of orienting students to their schools would not be conducive to a strong finish for the first semester. Rather, it would be a major distraction as students are focusing on completing the semester strong. We also want to ensure our adults - our teachers and staff members - are healthy and safe to serve our students.


I met with the other county superintendents and the Whatcom County Department of Health Friday at 9:00 am. Dr. Greg Stern and his team were available to discuss the changes in the guidance and conditions we should consider when bringing our students back to campus. As you might expect, there are districts that want to bring their older students back more quickly. Our conversation Friday did not promote doing so - and actually confirmed our stance of a cautious, controlled return to campus. For this and the reasons listed above, we will not be changing our plan to bring our middle and high school students back to our schools on February 1, 2021. As has been the case each time we have moved to welcome students back to campus, we will continue to coordinate with our local health department and ensure the conditions are appropriate for such a return. Additionally, principals from both the middle school and high school will be reaching out with orientation information for new students to each school - after the winter break.

2020-2021 Proposed Calendar Changes for Second Semester

This is timely - given today's weather! At the December 9th School Board Meeting I shared a proposal with our MSD School Board to modify the calendar for the second semester for several reasons. The School Board will vote on these changes at our January 13 School Board Meeting, which starts at 7:00 pm. You can see the proposed calendar changes by clicking here.


The proposal has three parts.


Since we will likely be operating in a predominantly hybrid learning model during the second semester, being able to protect our M/T and W/Thur combinations are important. It keeps both groups on the same pace for engaging in the content.


Additionally, since we have deployed 1:1 technology to allow us to operate remotely and increase our learning opportunities when we are together, we have proposed eliminating the two snow days in the semester in favor of moving to a remote learning model for inclement weather days. This will shorten the school year by two days (our last day of school moves from June 17 to June 15) and also eliminates two non-student Mondays. This also allows us to shift the prospective date for graduation from June 15th to June 9th.


Finally, we were scheduled to have our remaining Learning Improvement Day (LID) - where students do not attend school while our teachers engage in professional training - on May 17th – a Monday. This proposal moves that LID to May 21, a Friday. More details will be examined to ensure all are aware of what is to happen should we move to remote learning in response to inclement weather. That conversation is for when we return.

Thank You!

We appreciate all of you who returned your feedback for your student(s) for their learning program for the second semester. That information is crucial in helping us determine our staffing levels.


Finally, I want to thank you all for your support, patience, partnership, and grace this school year. It is so good to welcome in a new year with hope and anticipation. You all deserve to have a peaceful and restful holiday break. I hope you can relax and enjoy your family without stress! There is much to be thankful for and hope for an outstanding 2021. I hope you have a wonderful time with your family and enjoy your celebrations together.


Cheers!


James