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Winter Break Update from Superintendent Manahan

 Robert W. Manahan, Ed. D

Watch a brief video from Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Rob Manahan, on December 17, 2020. 

Read more details in the message below.

December 17, 2020

 

Dear Snoqualmie Valley School District Staff and Families:

 

As we prepare to move into our Winter Break next week, I wanted to update you on our district’s learning plans, as well as share some reminders and thoughts moving forward.

 

First, I want to thank you all for your emails, phone calls and comments regarding the current state of affairs we all find ourselves in, during this pandemic. I also want to be clear that our continued hope is to get all of our students back for in-person learning, sooner rather than later. Our school district staff -- including our maintenance and operations crew, nurses, administrators, secretaries and classified staff, as well as teachers, transportation team, food servers, tech support and district office staff -- have all been preparing for our “new normal” when the time comes to bring students back into our schools.  We have an exceptional team of professionals who continue to work together and collaborate on the logistics and many new details needed to help achieve this goal.  They are preparing our facilities, providing staff training, ordering proper PPE, establishing response systems, etc. All are committed and focused on ensuring that when we do bring students back, we will be able to do so in a safe and effective manner.

 

I am very proud of how our current remote learning has significantly improved since the pandemic began. This has involved great effort, creativity, professionalism and adaptability by all. Even so, we recognize that remote learning is not working for many of our students and staff. It is critical, both academically as well as socially and emotionally, that we bring our students back into our schools, as soon as it is safe to do so.

 

Since late July, I have stated that we will continue to follow our state and local public health guidance. Specifically, the Washington State Department of Health’s Decision Tree resource provides school districts with guidance for how to plan for returning to in-person learning. This guidance includes monitoring transmission metrics noted in the Decision Tree (cases/100,000, test positivity rates, hospitalization rates, etc.) in our region. 

 

One data resource that we monitor daily, is the King County Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard. Updated daily, this provides outbreak data over a two-week period, with local, regional and demographic data from Public Health. To access, click on Daily Summary Dashboard.  (From the King County graph, select the "Geography Over Time" tab.  If you hover your cursor over of the map of the communities in our school district, you can choose to view data by “City,” “Zip Code” or “Health Reporting Area.”) We also follow updates available through the Key Indicators of COVID-19 Activity in King County webpage. 

 

In addition to monitoring COVID data, some of the most important and effective factors for determining the viability of in-person learning in our district will depend on implementing the recommended COVID-19 health and safety measures, as well as ensuring we are ready and able to respond to and closely track suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. I am particularly proud to say, that with the exceptional work of our many team members, we feel confident in these health and safety measures, as well as our ability to respond quickly to suspected or confirmed cases, in partnership with local public health. We spoke specifically to some of these points in our latest board meeting on December 10, 2020.  You can view these presentations here (under Meetings – Dec. 10, 2020; see agenda items 4.04 and 5.01) or listen to this podcast

 

We will continue to consider both local and county data, as well as our mitigation capabilities and preparedness for response, in our decision making regarding returning students to school. The obvious question then is… When will we implement our in-person hybrid learning models?

 

With confidence in our mitigation factors and response systems, coupled with continued close tracking of local and regional data, we remain hopeful that we may be able to bring our youngest learners back sometime in mid-January.  We have not set a date as of yet, but will monitor and communicate our progress as we move forward. Our secondary students (grades 6-12) are a bit more challenging as they change classes 6 or 7 times each day, so cohorting and potential contact tracing becomes more complex. Even so, we will continue to prepare for bringing these students back as soon as is reasonable and will keep you posted.

 

Currently, we have over 100 of our most vulnerable students coming to school 2-4 days/week on modified schedules. These include students in our elementary specialty classes, middle school Life Skills program, Transition Learning Center and Preschool, as well as some individuals for 1:1 academic and/or social-emotional support. Additionally, our secondary schools have worked with their Intervention teams to provide opportunities for a very limited group of students (as a first step) to receive at-school support. CKMS and MSHS began piloting their programs this week, successfully, and our other 6-12 schools are planning to begin similar efforts in January. Although we have experienced COVID cases at consistent levels with community activity, we have not seen transmission within our school programs.

 

When we are able to bring more students back on a hybrid schedule, we will utilize new tools to help monitor health and support contact tracing at school. This includes: attestation email/texts, a district dashboard if/when there are confirmed cases at our schools, and a new SmartTag bus card system, which we will introduce in January.  In the meantime, families can learn more from our Return-to-School Safety Handbook for Families on the district website.  

 

It is a challenging conversation to bring students back, as cases surge within our community, our county and our nation, however… our hope is growing.  The exciting news this week of approved vaccinations making its way across the country is certainly cause for celebration.  But at the same time, public health officials still warn that continued diligence around prevention measures will be extremely important in the weeks ahead to overcome this pandemic.  

 

To bring our students back safely, we will need the collaboration and teamwork of everyone within our SVSD family – students, staff, families and community members together. Therefore, I implore each of us to take strong precautions in order expedite the much needed and critical return of our students to in-person learning. This means wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and limiting gatherings throughout the community. And when the time comes for implementing hybrid schedules, it means filling out daily health attestations prior to school or boarding a bus, and especially -- staying home with any COVID-19 symptoms. Your dedication will not only help us to open our schools, but will be imperative to keeping our schools open.

 

I do wish you all the very best of the holiday season this year. I hope you and your family can stay safe, that your health stays strong, and that you take time to enjoy one another.

 

Warm regards,

Rob Manahan

Superintendent