November 19th, 2020
Greetings Meridian Families and Students,
Dr. Greg Stern, Whatcom County Department of Health (WCDOH) Health Officer, has released a new recommendation for districts to not bring middle and high school students to schools while infections continue to escalate in Whatcom County. After reviewing the most recent data and projections, discussing our plan with the WCDOH, and reviewing Dr. Sterns’ new recommendation, Meridian School District is going to pause bringing our 6th – 12th graders back to school on November 30th. This decision was shared at last evening’s board meeting. We are not able to establish a new date at this time as there is too much uncertainty. Please read Dr. Stern’s recommendation.
Meridian School District has been moving through our Instructional Learning Steps to return students to school at different grade levels – in a hybrid learning model. We started the progression in late September and have been successfully welcoming students back every three weeks or so. We have also been serving students with identified learning needs in each of our buildings. This week we were pleased to have our 3rd – 5th graders return to Irene Reither Elementary. Throughout each of these steps, we have followed State and WCDOH guidance – as well as direction from OSPI – the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Many of you are aware of the rapid increase of infections around the country and state – and now – here in Whatcom County. At each step, we have indicated we would hold our progression if we did not believe we would be able to serve a group of students safely. As we have seen the cases of infection increase over the past week or so here in Whatcom County, superintendents and district representatives met with the WCDOH team Monday afternoon.
Dr. Stern’s letter includes information on the increased rates, how elementary students are less susceptible than middle and high school students, and how most of the increase of infections are coming from informal gatherings and households, rather than from schools and organizations. Given these factors, Dr. Stern supports continuing to serve elementary students and students with identified in-person learning needs – at school. Following this guidance, we will continue to serve all the students we have brought back to campus to date.
Meridian High School has been working to provide a Freshman Orientation tomorrow. That event has now been canceled. It will be rescheduled and part of the plan when we prepare to bring our middle and high school students to campus in the future.
We acknowledge this shift in our plans will impact everyone differently. Some will be relieved and others disappointed. Please know we are trying to provide the best options given these difficult circumstances while also following the guidance of our health officials. We appreciate their partnership as we navigate this new environment. As we continue to assess our ability to bring students back to campus and develop further plans, we will be sharing information out.