Will include host of safety precautions
Like so many things these days, what school will look like in the fall remains uncertain.
“I don’t know yet where we will land,” Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable said at last week’s school board meeting.
Venable said he’s optimistic about being able to hold in-person classes, based on the mid-June update from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.
Students and teachers will most likely see some changes to keep everyone safe when they resume in-person education. Everyone will be required to wear a mask and have daily health checks.
The school district is convening a workgroup to help plan for a safe and effective re-opening next year. All school districts have to submit a re-opening plan to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) at least two weeks before school starts, which, given the Methow’s early Aug. 31 start date, would be in mid-August, Venable said.
The school district wants to know: how did school closure go for you?
Students, parents, families and all interested community members can provide feedback to the school district about the school shutdown and their experiences with remote learning, child care and meals, as well as their thoughts about in-person classes next year. The survey is available on the MVSD website at http://www.methow.org. The deadline for completing it is July 10.
As part of the planning process, the district has created a survey for students, parents, teachers, and community members to learn about their experiences with the nearly four-month shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
The survey asks about meals, child care, the best and most challenging aspects of remote learning, access to computers and the internet, and access to teachers and mental health services. It also asks about people’s comfort level with regard to returning to school in the fall and any specific concerns.
The district has already received about 115 responses to the survey, Venable said. About 70% expressed considerable gratitude for the services the schools provided, with a particular appreciation for meals and child care and for teachers’ efforts to make remote learning successful and engaging.
Most of those who’ve already responded hope that school will be in person in the fall, although some said that if masks are required, they won’t have confidence that the situation is safe enough. Some questioned whether masks should be required. Others said they’d choose homeschooling because of health issues affecting someone in their household, Venable said.
In other business:
The district and the union representing teachers have signed off on a three-year contract that includes a cost-of-living increase. The district anticipates a contract for classified employees such as paraeducators and food-service staff and another for coaches will be ratified later this summer, Venable said.
Venable and the three principals are embarking on a summer-reading project about racism and social justice. Other staff members will read the books later in the year, and the district will hold a professional development workshop for staff — and maybe for students and parents — on systemic racism, Venable said.
The three books are “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, and “How To Be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi. The school board members expressed interest in reading the books as well.
This focus on anti-racism goes hand-in-hand with the International Baccalaureate framework, which emphasizes developing caring, compassionate students who seek to understand the perspectives of others and communities across the world, Venable said.
The district is working with the Washington Association of School Administrators on a regional initiative focused on equity and excellence. They hope to bring the executive director for equity in education at the Puget Sound Educational Service District to speak with staff in the Methow Valley and the other 28 schools in the central region next year, Venable said.
OSPI re-opening recommendations
The state’s goal is to open schools for in-person instruction this fall for as many students as can safely be accommodated.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has released detailed guidelines for face-to-face education. Even once the state is in the final phase of re-opening, everyone in school will be required to follow appropriate physical distancing, use personal protective equipment, and follow handwashing and cleaning recommendations.
The state Department of Health and the Department of Labor & Industries both require students and staff to receive a daily health screening before entering a school. Health screenings can be performed at home before school or on-site. If the health screening is done at home, it must certify that the child or staff member doesn’t have fever, shortness of breath, or cough. School personnel will be on the lookout for signs of illness throughout the school day.
Everyone would be required to wear a facial covering in school and on school buses, although exemptions will be available in accordance with public health guidelines. Buses would run at normal capacity. There will be accommodations for staff and students at high risk of infection.
School would not have to be closed if someone were to test positive for COVID-19. Public health officials would implement procedures including contact tracing to ensure safety. The superintendent or the county’s health officer has the authority to close a school.
Preference will be given to students with the highest needs and those who wouldn’t have equal access to learning without face-to-face instruction.