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Safe Restart: Upcoming Dates for Grades 2-5 to Return to Learn In-Person

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February 4, 2021

 

Dear Snoqualmie Valley Families,

 

We are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association, regarding restarting in-person learning for grades 2 through 5.  SVEA membership voted yesterday, and ratified the agreement this morning. We appreciate the many hours of productive collaboration that has taken place between our district and union leadership team – with all committed to safely bringing more Snoqualmie Valley students back into our schools with pandemic precautions in place. These important discussions will continue with an eye on secondary grade levels next.

 

The latest agreement allows for phasing in the rest of our elementary hybrid students, as well as steps to continue carefully monitoring for COVID transmission in our school environments.  As part of the employment agreement to support student and staff safety, we agreed that if there is a positive COVID case anywhere in the district that is linked to in-school transmission after contact tracing, the district will pause efforts to bring in additional new groups of students. In that case, a restart date would be postponed to allow time to investigate and evaluate our systems, address any safety issues or improve mitigation factors where possible.

 

Target dates for beginning in person learning were initially defined as February 11 for grade 2 and 3, and March 1 for hybrid students in grades 4 and 5. However, we also verified an instance of a confirmed COVID case linked to in-school transmission between staff at a secondary school, so per our agreement a timing delay is warranted. This pause is in an abundance of caution and allows the district time to investigate and remedy any gaps in our mitigation and communication of COVID cases.

 

SVSD return-to-school in-person dates, therefore, for families who chose hybrid in-person learning, are:

  • February 22 – Grade 2 & Grade 3
  • March 1 – Grade 4 & Grade 5

Students returning in Grades 2-5:  Please watch for a detailed communication from your school as the date nears with instructions and resources to help you and your family prepare for a safe return-to-learn in person. In the meantime, please thoroughly review the following resources and help your student understand and adapt to the “new normal” at school. 

  • Family Return-to-School Safety Handbook – Find safety precautions our district has taken to prepare our schools, what to expect upon returning, and the role that parents/guardians and students will have each day. (Click the bright green banner on your school website for this online resource.)
  • School Safe Return Plans – Find your school’s COVID Safety Site Plan, who to contact with questions, and a back-up QR code to use if you do not receive the daily attestation email on a day your student is scheduled for in-person learning.

 

As we continue to move forward, our district is maintaining a District Data Dashboard that will be updated each Friday, to help track and report COVID activity among students and staff at school. This will help us monitor whether cases are a result of in-school transmission, or if they are a reflection of community activity.

 

In other recent developments…

First grade hybrid students returned for in-person learning last Friday, January 29.  Approximately 412 first grade students were welcomed back to school.  Kudos to all -- students, staff and families – for their role in another successful transition!  We’ve shared some first day first grade photos on our website; click here to watch a slide show

 

To date, Snoqualmie Valley schools are serving approximately 1244 students in person at our schools. This includes: preschoolers, elementary specialty classes, middle school life skills classes, student in the Transition Learning Center program, small group interventions in all middle schools and at MSHS, childcare on campus, outdoor conditioning pods with high school athletes, and now kindergarteners and first graders (who chose the hybrid option) at all six elementary schools and the Parent Partnership Program.  Additionally, we’ve taken special care to safely facilitate some school events that need to happen in person. For example, we administered the College Board PSAT exam to 200+ students in 11th grade; and, we tested 19 students this week (in grades 8-12 from all 5 secondary schools), assessing 11 different languages for the World Language Competency/Seal of Biliteracy credit for graduation. Also, several schools are preparing for modified “picture day” events. When hybrid students return in grades 2-5 will add more than 1,400 students to the total receiving in-person instruction in SVSD.

 

We are eager to continue this progress, and are continuing to explore ways to support more secondary students in person.  As our schools implement all the COVID-related safety and health requirements for students and staff on campus, and as we ensure our systems can successfully mitigate, investigate and respond to any cases that will emerge, we are continuing to learn and adapt as we go.  At the same time, preparations and training continues at our middle and high schools, and bargaining discussions will now focus on how we can safely support complex secondary schedules, with multiple periods and subjects that present extra challenges for minimizing the risk of COVID spread and exposure. (This is unlike elementary classrooms that become cohort groups and do not mix with other groups.)  

 

I appreciate that many families of our 6-12 families have asked that we provide a date and timeline for re-opening secondary schools.  However, it would be premature to do so in any definitive way, until we’re confident all systems needed are in place and this can be negotiated fully with our employee associations. That said, it is our goal to start phasing in secondary students towards the end of March.  Our decisions around which groups to phase in, continue to align with state guidance, per the Washington Department of Health (DOH) Updated Guidance for K-12 Schools regarding re-opening decisions. 

 

We’ve made progress on hiring – but there are still needs to fill.  Thanks to all who applied for critical positions that will help our district open schools and keep them open.  We are in the process of reviewing 50 applications from candidates who responded!  While this was a tremendous response… we still have needs to hire more bus drivers, emergency substitute teachers, substitute paraeducators, and health room assistants. If you or someone you know may be interested, see details here on these roles and how to apply. 

 

Lastly, we are doing everything we can to help get school staff access to the COVID-19 vaccine.  We are in close contact with local hospitals, to partner when quantities become available. Our district has also indicated our readiness to serve as a vaccination site to Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, the Department of Health and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (More to details to come if we are chosen.)

 

Thank you again for your partnership and patience.  As we head into Mid-Winter Break (February 15-19), I am reminded of surges in community COVID cases that have occurred after other school breaks.  Please be diligent in staying safe, wearing masks, and keeping your distance from others not in your household, so we can continue making progress around welcoming more students back to school for in-person learning following the break. 

 

Sincerely,

Robert W. Manahan, Ed. D

Superintendent