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SVSD Reopening Plans On Hold Due to Increasing COVID-19 Cases

October 16, 2020

 

Dear Snoqualmie Valley families,

 

During this pandemic school year, our school district continues to monitor and assess a number of factors as we prepare for the eventual return of students for in person learning. Factors that contribute to our decisions include: King County COVID data, local COVID data, school and district readiness, staffing capacity and concerns, community/family preferences, and our ability to quickly respond to exposures and clearly communicate with families.

 

While we’ve been able to address many of these factors, recent developments are causing us to put a HOLD on the timing for our current plan for bringing back students on a phased approached.

 

Currently, regional King County COVID conditions are experiencing another uptick in positive cases. As of yesterday, October 15, King County’s COVID-19 transmission for the past two weeks had increased to 92 confirmed cases per 100,000 – placing our region in the “high activity” range (defined by Public Health as 75+ per 100,000).  In addition, there has been an increase in confirmed cases in North Bend, with the 98045 zip code reporting 104.4 cases per 100,000, and the City of North Bend increasing to a rate of 205.0 per 100,000.  According to the Washington State Department of Health's Decision Tree for K-12 In-Person Learning guidance, when COVID rates indicate high activity, they “strongly recommend distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning in small groups, or cohorts, of students for the highest need students, such as students with disabilities, students living homeless, those farthest from educational justice, and younger learners.”

 

We are also continuing to negotiate with our employee associations on topics involving safety training and concerns, staff availability, new schedules and assignments, and readiness for reopening and we hope to reach agreement on these key issues soon.

 

Unfortunately, given the high COVID-19 activity rates in King County and North Bend, and on-going staff capacity and concerns, we will need to pause our current plan for reopening in phases, and have the majority of students to continue with remote learning, until further notice.

 

With one exception, we will continue our efforts to serve some of our small groups of students with specialized learning needs, in-person. Our elementary specialty classes and middle school life skills teachers have been preparing for bringing their students back next week, and they are ready to make this transition happen safely on Monday, October 19.  In addition, in-person services at our Transition Learning Center will continue as they have been. 

 

What putting our plan on hold means:

  • All grade levels will continue on their established Distance Learning 2.0 schedules.
  • This includes the preschool program (also anticipated to start in-person next week). They will continue remotely for now.
  • Also, new Kindergarten schedules will not be available today as planned.
  • Our staff will continue to prepare for the eventual switch to hybrid learning, and welcoming students back in our buildings in-person -- so we are poised to implement that transition quickly and effectively, when that time comes.

 

We will continue to monitor conditions, checking each Wednesday when new King County numbers are typically updated - and watching for a decreasing trend in rates at least two consecutive weeks.  At that point, we will decide if we are ready to move forward and conditions support attempting a phased approach again. When we make that decision, the district will notify SVSD families at least seven days prior to any re-start date, to give families time to plan and prepare. 

 

We regret the disappointment and inconvenience this delay may cause for you and your family.  We are continuing to tackle the challenges of this pandemic -- re-inventing learning models to keep students and staff as safe as possible, while supporting the needs of students and staff and preferences of families.  We miss our students dearly, but we also must follow science-based data and guidance from local public health experts.

 

In the meantime, attached is a new resource: our online SVSD Return-to-School Safety Handbook for Families.  This resource summarizes many of the prevention strategies, site modifications, safety precautions and response protocols that will be implemented to keep our students and staff as safe as possible when we resume in-person learning.  This guidance will be updated when needed, as information and guidance from public health continues to evolve.  We hope this will help families know what to expect when schools reopen – and understand the shared responsibility that student and families will have to help keep schools safe.  

 

Please read this information thoroughly and help your students prepare for changes ahead when they return in person.  (Today this is presented online. We’ll provide a pdf version too, for those who want to print a copy next week.)

 

Stay safe!

Robert W. Manahan, Ed. D

Superintendent, Snoqualmie Valley School District