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Snoqualmie Valley Schools to Begin School Year with Remote Learning

July 31, 2020

 

Dear Snoqualmie Valley families,

 

At yesterday’s school board work session and public meeting, I presented an update on recent developments including the current upward trend of COVID cases in King County, growing concerns from the Governor and public health department, survey data from parents and staff, and other factors taken into consideration as we have been re-assessing our district’s re-opening plan. Ultimately, the School Board approved my recommendation to focus our efforts on supporting full time remote learning for all students, when school starts on August 31, 2020.

 

This is a change from our district’s initial plan (shared July 8) that included a combination of remote learning and in-person/hybrid options, with social distancing in classrooms and other significant safety precautions as required by the state and public health.

 

Please also know that we did not make this decision lightly.  Given the increase in COVID cases in King County (where many of our staff live and parents work), limited availability of staff/substitutes due to health concerns, the uncertainty of COVID health risks, and many challenges related to monitoring/tracking/responding to a potential outbreak at school, we feel this is the right decision at this time to ensure the safety of our students, staff and families.  With this announcement, we join 35 other school districts in the Puget Sound region (out of 37) who have made the same decision for the fall.

 

While our strongest desire and goal is to welcome all Snoqualmie Valley students back for in-person teaching and learning, we will continue to monitor conditions and prepare for our eventual reopening, when it is safe to do so.  We know that this will affect our families and community in a variety of ways and regret any inconvenience or hardship this decision may create for some.    

 

Moving forward, we will focus special attention on ways we can support the unique needs of our most vulnerable students, using a lens of equity and access to ensure all students are supported. Our Student Services department will be providing more information to families of students receiving intensive Special Education services, for whom online learning is a challenge, to examine how we can best support their learning needs. For students who do not speak English at home, we’ve added tools to assist with translation.

 

We recognize that childcare for families who must work outside of home, whose children are too young to stay alone, is a critical need for some families.  Unfortunately, our district has not received the same support from the state that was available last spring, to be able to pay for the childcare of essential workers. We are connecting with community organizations and some parent groups to help identify childcare options for local families. 

 

We will also have a plan for continuing food services for students who depend on nutrition at school.  At this time, school districts have not received support from the federal lunch program that was available last spring, which enabled us to offer free breakfast and lunches to all students. Therefore, our plan will prioritize providing meal service for students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.  We are also considering how we might make meals available for purchase for other families. (To verify if your family’s income level qualifies for the free and reduced meal program and to learn how to apply, click here. Eligible families must submit a new application each year; the 2020-21 application will be available online in early August.)

 

With our decision to start the year with full remote learning, our district is intensely focusing our efforts on providing a high quality, engaging remote learning experience for all of our students.  We are working to improve upon our spring distance learning experience, based on feedback and suggestions we received from students, parents and staff.  Some of those improvements include: more “live” instruction via video conferencing, daily contact with teachers, a single sign-on for families to access our Learning Management System, consistency within Schoology for posting assignments and turning in work, daily attendance, and more opportunities for students to connect online and engage with other students in their classes. To prepare our staff for these changes, our district is developing robust professional development for our staff to establish best practice and utilize new remote learning resources, as well as learn techniques for how to support the social emotional needs of the students remotely. To better support families, a remote learning “boot camp” for students and parents/caregivers will be offered, as well as a Return-to-School Guidebook as a resource for starting the school year.

 

The duration of our decision to support remote learning has not yet been determined, as it will be dependent on emerging public health developments and safety factors that will need to be re-evaluated over time.  Our district is in regular contact with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Department of Health (DOH) which are working on metrics for helping school districts determine when to reopen for in-person instruction.  Until then, our initial plan is to revisit conditions at the 6-week mark into the school year. At that time, if we determine we’re ready to implement a hybrid or in-person model, we would work to make that transition at approximately week 9 (early November). When we reach the point of resuming in-person instruction, the district will likely phase in contact starting with our most vulnerable students with special learning needs and our youngest students (preschool, kindergarten, 1st grade, on up) whose social development at school is fundamental.

 

Given the rapidly changing pandemic conditions bringing new information coming every day, we sincerely appreciate your flexibility, understanding and support.  We also value the passionate opinions and diverse perspectives we’ve received.  Please trust that we are committed to protecting the health and safety of our students, staff and families, as best as possible, while providing a high quality education for all Snoqualmie Valley students, regardless of whether this happens in person or remotely.  

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert Manahan
Superintendent

 

For more information about this decision, find the July 30 School Board meeting presentation here.

 

Next steps: 

Our complete reopening plan will be presented to the School Board on August 13, and submitted to OSPI by August 15. Part of this planning includes meeting with our employee association leaders to problem solve issues and define how roles can support the delivery of our mission in a digital learning environment. We will continue to provide updates as we have more answers, and will add to our FAQ next week regarding this adjustment.