June 29, 2020 (En Español)
Selah School District Learning Community,
In these first weeks of summer, hopefully Selah School District students and families are well, and enjoying a casual pace after the past few months of uncertainty and the implementation of new learning techniques.
Even though the 2019-2020 school year was recently completed, work has continued in preparation for the reopening of schools in the fall. Although there are many factors to be considered in this work, the effort is imperative as it means we are moving forward. With that, there is news to share to help Selah families plan for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
The Selah School District has made the decision to delay the start of next school year by five school days from the original date of August 31. Now the first day of classes for students beginning the 2020-2021 school year is on Wednesday, September 9. In making the decision, the District reviewed current health information and statistics related to COVID-19 and Yakima County. In doing so, many conversations transpired, but District leaders determined the benefits of delaying the start of school this year outweighed keeping the original first day date. This additional time will help the District finalize its school operational plans so there is as smooth a start as possible for students and families in what may be another uncertain year. Through the online survey that was given in early June about reopening, the district heard loud and clear that a majority of parents want their children back to in-person instruction in the fall. Although the goal remains to have Selah students back in classrooms, much work still needs to be completed in order to establish the safest way to make this possible. This involves devising three school scheduling concepts that includes the scenarios of Continuous (Distance) Learning 2.0, Split or Rotating Schedules with District Learning, and Full In-Person Learning. All models must take into account health and safety measures dictated by state agencies and the local health department.
Additionally, as the District prepares for next school year it has established several focus groups that are meeting to discuss reopening plans for the fall. Focus groups consist of one for each building and discussions will include PPE/Health Requirements, Cleaning and Disinfection, Nutrition, Transportation, Athletics and Activities, EL Parents and Working Conditions. There are over 100 participants, consisting of administration, board members, staff, union representation, parents and students. The purpose of these groups is to make recommendations to District leadership for the development of a school reopening strategy. The Selah School Board must adopt an operating plan by mid-August as per OSPI guidelines.
As the summer progresses and timelines become significant, the District’s goal is to communicate with staff and families by July 15, regarding the general structure for next year. Not all the details will be finalized by this date. However, general information will help families begin preparing for the start of the new school year.
As we head into the July 4, holiday weekend, please enjoy the warmer weather, stay safe, and remain healthy. After long months of navigating unprecedented times, we are moving closer to students being able to return to classrooms where they can enjoy the moments of being among teachers and friends again. To complete this transition we need continued commitment and support from everyone.
June 12, 2020 (En Español)
Selah School District Learning Community,
As we come to the end of what can only be described as maybe the most challenging and complex school year any of us have faced, we focus our attention to the summer and fall when we turn the page and begin another school year. My intention through this communication is to tell you what we know right now about the months ahead and offer you some insight into our planning process.
State Superintendent Chris Reykdal made it clear when he said, “It is my expectation that schools will open this fall for in-person instruction.” As a district, that is our intent as well. That being said, the changing or continued worsening of our county’s health conditions may cause our local health authority or even the Governor to reconsider the opportunity to open. The District’s primary planning will involve working towards students being able to come back, while creating contingency plans that we hope we will not have to use.
Over the course of the next four to six weeks, the district will be taking a three pronged approach to building its plans. First, we will be working with staff during the week of June 15 to reflect on what we’ve learned during the closure and begin initial planning. Next, we will evaluate the feedback from the Reopening Schools Survey that was sent to staff, families and students. Finally, we will call upon focus groups of staff, students and families to help in the planning process. Information on these focus groups will be coming in the next two weeks.
The following is information that we know now:
- Health and Safety - The District will be working with local health authorities to put in place health and safety protocols which include screening for symptoms, maintaining physical distance, using appropriate personal protective equipment, frequent cleaning and hand washing, and what to do if someone develops signs of COVID-19. The Department of Health has made clear to schools in Washington that all staff, students, volunteers and guests must wear face cloth face coverings in school settings. Face shields are an acceptable alternative. We will have more specific information about face coverings later in the summer.
- Scheduling Concepts - While the goal is to have all kids back in classrooms next fall, the reality is with the required measures that need to be in place, and our current county health conditions, contingency plans need to be developed. All plans will be made collaboratively and our intention is to make them available by July 17. The three scheduling concepts include:
- Continuous (Distance) Learning 2.0 - This model is an improved version of what we have been doing since March with all students participating in distance learning. The difference would be that we could apply lessons learned and offer a more robust and consistent distance learning experience. This model would be implemented if it is not safe to have staff or students on campus. This model would also be used in the event we have to close school due to an outbreak of the virus, or, as the improved distance learning portion of the other two models.
- Split or Rotating Schedules with Distance Learning - This would involve smaller groups of students coming to campus on a rotating schedule. While not on campus, improved distance learning would occur from home. In this scenario every aim would be to have all students access face-to-face instruction at some point during the week, while taking into consideration family schedules and the need for consistency.
- Phased-in Opening with Distance Learning - The key characteristics of this model include identified groups of students having face-to-face instruction at school while others would remain in improved distance learning. The students accessing face-to-face instruction would be based on need and identified in a collaborative manner.
- Summer Learning Opportunities - While we remain in Phase 1 as a county, we will not be offering widespread summer learning opportunities. Our hope is to develop a “jump start” program that would take place in late summer to allow interested or identified students the opportunity to learn important skills missed in the spring prior to the start of next school year. This time could also be used for high school students to make up any incompletes from their course work. If health conditions, budget and staffing allow, we will provide more information about summer learning opportunities in the weeks ahead.
- Athletics - The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) has recently begun making plans on returning to play next school year. A press release can be found here. As of now, school based summer athletics and activities are suspended due to the virus. In addition, the ability of our students to participate in athletics or activities this fall will be contingent upon health and safety guidelines provided by WIAA and in conjunction with the local Health Department and leagues. Athletic directors are working on plans and will be communicating with students and families over the summer.
As you can see, there are a lot of considerations and planning that will need to take place over the summer to get us back to some sense of normalcy with school. Our pledge as a district is to use health and safety guidelines, attend to our students and staff emotional well-being, keep equity at the center of our planning and address learning loss.
On the subject of equity, we will be convening a racial equity team as a district over the next several weeks. The purpose of the team will be to do our part to fight against systemic racism while providing leadership and momentum around implementing educational opportunities, policies and programs that will further racial equity in our schools and community. More information will be forthcoming.
In closing, I want to say a sincere thank you to everyone in our district and community who played a crucial role over the last three months. I’m proud to say that while not perfect, our district has been a model for how to respond to a crisis and come together for the betterment of our students and school community. We have much to learn and more work to do, but the partnerships, relationships and leadership throughout our district and community will see us through. Please continue to monitor communication channels over the summer, take care, and be safe.
Shane Backlund, Superintendent
Selah School District
Selah School District Learning Community,
I hope this message finds you healthy and safe during these uncertain times. The stay-at-home order by the Governor has put a strain on everyone, but as an essential service provider the District has been working hard to continue its meal service, child care for first responders and healthcare workers, as well as establishing academic resources for students. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished to this point.
I hope that you have been able to utilize the resource page located on our website we established on Monday, March 23. While not the same as the face-to-face interaction with our amazing staff, our intent is to provide things to keep kids somewhat academically engaged during this time. As a side note, our district has been operating under an assumption that we will extend the school year until June 19. This is ten additional days past our original end date of June 5. Because of this, we’ve asked our teaching staff to not work the past two weeks so that they can make those 10 days up in their contract at the end of the year. Teachers will begin their contracted days again on Tuesday, March 31. This is the reason we have not been able to start teacher-to-student contact until next week. I’m sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused, but these are the circumstances that we are faced with currently.
Next week you can expect to receive communication in the form of a phone call or video chat from one of your child’s teachers. Instead of our typical conference week, the District will be doing a check-in with each family and student to see how they are doing, ask some questions about access to the internet and devices, discuss some upcoming academic options and find convenient times for making telephone or virtual connections. Our intent is to roll these out to students after spring break, beginning April 13.
The District also has been working on plans to ensure families have access to devices (at grades 2-12) and potential internet access. We have started distributing devices at grades 2-12 for those who do not have one at home, and will continue to do so as necessary. Finally, we have put a list of internet options on our website for those who currently don’t have access at home, which you can find here.
I know there is a lot of uncertainty out there and I realize the pressure everyone is under at this time. Know that we miss seeing our kids’ faces and look forward to the day when we are able to open our doors back up at our schools. Until then, we will continue to focus on being a resource to our community and doing our best at providing academic support to our students. Take care, be safe and we’ll see you soon.
Shane Backlund, Superintendent
March 23, 2020 (En Español)
Dear Selah School District Learning Community:
I hope this letter finds you healthy during these uncertain times. The unprecedented school closure, and now the stay-at-home directive from the Yakima Health District, has generated a number of questions and complications around providing traditional school services to our community. I understand this and share your frustrations and confusion. As a district, we want nothing more than to help our students, but we find ourselves in a complicated situation that evolves almost daily.
Selah School District’s top priority, for the time being, is to use our organization to provide stability and resources to our community. As you may have seen in last week’s communication, we have implemented plans to make sure that students have meals, are beginning to provide healthcare workers and first responders access to child care and are working on ensuring students have access to educational resources.
However, the reality is that we cannot continue to deliver educational curriculum in the way that many of you may have been anticipating. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) issued specific requirements that districts must be able to guarantee if they are to “hold school,” even remotely, during a time of extended closure. If we cannot satisfy those requirements, we cannot continue moving forward through the curriculum. Until further notice during this extended closure, teachers will not be continuing to teach their course material, with a few exceptions detailed below. We are essentially “pressing pause” on the curriculum where we left off on Friday, March 13, with a plan to resume from that point when school is back in session on April 27. If our plans change due to additional closures, we will modify it to try to expand on what we are able to provide.
In the meantime, our goal is to create learning materials and activities that can help students do the following things:
- Review material that they may have already covered, but not yet mastered.
- Practice skills that are necessary for learning and proficiency in a particular subject.
- Engage in enrichment activities or independent projects in a particular subject area.
- Identify an area of interest in a subject area to research and explore.
Given our current restrictions, these learning activities are not required, nor will they be graded.
These learning opportunities are supplemental and designed to keep students connected with some of the content and the skills they need to resume school successfully. They are not meant to replace our core curriculum and instruction.
This approach is in line with OSPI’s guidelines and recommendations. Also, it is aligned with what a majority of our neighboring districts are doing, and will be the practice of all Selah schools until further notice.
As a high school community, we have students who are planning for graduation, preparing for various exams, enrolled in College in the High School course, and worry about how this “pause in curriculum” may impact their learning. Here is what we know now:
- We are still waiting on updated guidance from OSPI and the State Board of Education regarding graduation requirements.
- Our district has been in touch with universities to determine next steps with College in the High School courses and are waiting to hear back.
- Part of our work will be to have staff working specifically on plans for 12th grade students to ensure they are able to meet the potentially changing graduation requirements.
Our intent for the immediate future is to provide families with resources to support their students at home. Please follow this link for an extensive website of available resources. You can contact the Student Learning office at 698-8003 with questions about these resources or email email@example.com. The exception to this will be a potentially varied plan for seniors, students working toward credit retrieval and some of our special populations with more intensive needs. More information on students in these categories will be forthcoming.
Of primary concern to all of us is the ability to offer educational opportunities to everyone in an equitable manner. This includes providing support for those who do not have access to devices for use in supporting learning. To help ensure that we are able to get devices, such as Chromebooks, to those who may need them we are asking for families without access to a device at home for their child to follow this link or call 509-698-8000 and leave us a message with your circumstances. You can also call us at 698-8000 to request a device. Once we have this information we will work on a distribution plan for these devices and communicate that to those individuals. For the time being, we are limiting devices to students in grades 2-12. For students in grades kindergarten and first, we are working on providing hard copy learning resources. We will be communicating more about that in the next couple of days.
In addition, we are working on a plan to be able to communicate with all students and families during our traditional conference week of March 31 through April 3. More details about what this opportunity (probably by telephone) will look like is coming later this week.
Please know that our staff is committed to serving students and helping them get the best education possible. Also know that when making these decisions, the District, building and union leadership have worked to consider as many circumstances and factors as possible, and we believe that our approach is reasonable, sustainable, and equitable for all students.
As always, I thank you for your support and flexibility during this health crisis our country is facing. Selah is a strong community, made up of resilient people and those willing to lend a hand. It will take that spirit and more to get us through this, but I’m confident that we can and will, together.
Shane Backlund, Superintendent
Selah School District
March 16, 2020 5:00 PM (En Español)
Dear Selah School District Learning Community,
During these past couple of weeks, we have experienced great challenge, with a vision of uncertainty. I want to thank staff, families, and patrons for their patience as we work through the current reality of dealing with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in our lives. I am proud to be a part of a community where we supported each other to keep schools operational for as long as we did.
In education, as each week begins anew, we are reminded about our commitment to kids and their well-being. As we continue to navigate this unparalleled challenge to our school system, let us remember that the institution of education is a strong and trusted establishment. That is why in the quickly changing face of COVID-19, we have been working to make the safest decisions for students and families.
This past Friday, March 13, Governor Jay Inslee, announced the closure of all Washington State schools beginning Tuesday, March 17 and extending through at least April 24. Learning this information, the Selah School District made the decision to hold classes on Monday, March 16. This was done so teachers could have a final contact day with students, discuss outstanding assignments, as well as provide reassurance. Additionally, the District wanted to utilize this day so parents could pick-up medications and students could gather personal items needed during the closure. However, this decision was altered when Governor Inslee issued the order Sunday evening that no more than 50 people could gather at one place. Thus, the safest decision for our students was to close school today.
I understand that this extended closure creates challenges for many families, as schools provide stability and routine to communities. This time of extraordinary challenge not only disrupts our educational system, but our everyday life as well. I know questions have arisen, and the District leadership team has worked quickly to provide answers and implement procedures to support Selah students and families. The following is guidance for what we currently know:
- Facility Closures:
Beginning today, March 16, all Selah School District facilities, including the district office, closed to the public. Facilities will remain closed until further notice. We understand that families have questions and we are here to provide assistance. Please contact us at 698-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Last Day of School:
The tentative last day of school in the District will now be Friday, June 19. This is 10 additional days past our currently scheduled last day of Friday, June 5. More information will be forthcoming.
- Food Services:
Beginning Wednesday, March 18 and continuing through April 24 (with the exception of Spring Break April 6-10), free breakfast and lunch meals will be available for all children ages 18 and younger. Children must be present to take possession of the meals provided. To begin with, the District has designated pick-up locations for meals from 10:30 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday. Please visit this link for more information about the food services option.
Part of Governor Inslee’s order included schools providing childcare for first responders and healthcare worker’s children. We are awaiting guidance from the state on what this will look like. We will update families when more information is available. If you are a healthcare worker or first responder with school-aged children in Selah, please follow this link to provide us additional information about this opportunity.
Our building and district administrators are currently working on options for resources for students, which will be available on Monday, March 23. At this time, our plan is to make this work optional and it will not be graded. This decision is based on an inequitable access of wireless connectivity and devices for all students. We will also be providing support to our 12th-grade students to ensure they complete graduation requirements. Currently we are awaiting guidance on high school graduation requirements. Please do not contact your child’s teacher during this time for school work as they will not have the tools or resources to be able to provide individualized learning for each student. There will be more information available about these resources on March 23, and a plan for potential communication options with teachers.
- Cleaning and Sanitization:
Custodial and maintenance staffs are preparing to deep clean and sanitize all District facilities.
During these unsettling times, the District is committed to providing on-going communication to families. Please understand that in our work, as questions accumulate, answers are not always immediate. Sometimes the process can seem delayed in order to provide accurate information. However, the District remains committed to disseminate news as it becomes available by the use of its usual communication channels. Also, our COVID-19 website at https://www.selahschools.org/domain/619 will remain active. Please regularly check this site for the most current information. In this time of uncertainty, we must trust the communication process. It is the best scenario for everyone to work together to ensure the lines of accurate communication remain open.
Additionally, I continue to urge families to follow the guidance from the medical and health communities and take the precautions in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. If you are close to someone in one of the defined vulnerable categories, please ensure their wellness. With concentrated vigilance, the progression of the virus will slow.
In closing, I know we are embarking on a part of the school year in which we did not envision. However, it is in our commitment to kids and their well-being and the pledge to work together, that will get us through this extraordinary beginning to 2020. This community is Selah strong, and in times of uncertainty has always displayed the courage to support each other. Let us keep that pledge as we move forward.
Selah School District Superintendent
March 13, 2020 5:00 PM
Dear Selah School District Learning Community,
The past couple of weeks have been stressful for many in our community, as we have faced an unprecedented public health crisis with the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. I am grateful to our dedicated staff and supportive families for navigating this situation with our school district.
We have kept our schools open as long as possible as recommended by state and local public health authorities and followed their guidance in our approach to responding to the national health crisis. However, Governor Jay Inslee has now ordered the closure of all Washington State Schools.
Beginning Tuesday, March 17, all schools in the Selah School District will be closed. At this time, the closure will extend through at least Friday, April 24. During this time, all district facilities will be closed to students, families and the community. This includes the cancellation of all District activities, sporting practices and events.
I understand that this closure will create challenges for many families as our schools play an important role, not only in the quality education of our students, but also by providing supports, services, socialization and consistency. Our goal is to continue supporting our families during this time, to the best of our ability, and I appreciate your patience as we work together to keep our students, staff, and patrons healthy and safe.
In this challenging time, I am proud of the actions I have already witnessed by our District staff, families, and community. While our classrooms are empty, our work on behalf of students continues. With this, we are working to reduce the impact to students and families as much as possible and the following are some of our preparations:
- Our Nutrition Services Team is developing a plan to continue offering food options for students who rely on school meals as part of their nutritional needs. We will have information available about our plan early next week.
- We are working on the logistics of childcare offerings for those parents who work in health care and emergency services. Again, information will be available next week.
- We are creating plans for potential online learning opportunities and additional supports for our most vulnerable students. We will also be providing support to our 12th-grade students to ensure they complete graduation requirements.
As we implement these plans, usual communication channels will be used to communicate details about these services. Also, our specific COVID-19 website at https://www.selahschools.org/domain/619 will remain active. Please regularly check this site for the most current information. This closure will affect every aspect of our District and community. However, the community of Selah always rises to support each other. Further, while schools are closed to students, district business operations will continue. If families need assistance, they can reach the District Office by phone or email. Please do not hesitate to contact us, as we are here to help during these extraordinary times.
Additionally, I strongly urge families to follow the ongoing guidance from the medical and health communities by practicing social distancing and taking other precautions in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Also, during the closure, maintenance and custodial staff will be working to clean and sanitize all District facilities.
In closing, I want to thank Selah School District families, staff, and patrons for their continued partnership and support as we work to navigate these current times. We will get through this. The strength of the Selah community has always been supporting its students and schools as we have come to know this as the Viking Way.
Selah School District Superintendent
Selah School District Staff, Parents, and Community:
Yesterday’s press conference from Governor Jay Inslee has led to an additional number of school districts and higher institutions that have closed in Washington State due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. As this situation continues to alter lives, additional proactive measures will need to be taken to prevent the spread as much as possible.
At this time, after careful consideration and counsel, we will take the following proactive measures to protect students, employees, and the community effective today, March 12:
- Suspend weekend and after-hours indoor facility use for large group events, activities, sporting events and tournaments.
- Limit out-of-county travel for non-essential events and take each additional scheduled trip on a case-by-case basis. Determining factors will include importance of the location of the activity, potential exposure, preparedness of the facility where the event is scheduled and any other factor not yet determined.
- Limit non-essential large gatherings in our own district among staff, students and parents. This could include family nights, contests, dances, etc.
I have been in continuous contact with nearby school district superintendents, several who are putting similar measures in place. The Yakima County Health Department is also in support of these measures. Please realize that additional decisions will occur as the COVID-19 situation evolves, and that additional actions could happen at any time. I appreciate your flexibility, patience, and understanding. We care deeply about all students, families, and staff and will continue to share information and decisions as promptly as possible.
Shane Backlund, Superintendent
Selah School District
Following Governor Jay Inslee's press conference earlier this morning, and the World Health Organization officially designating the COVID-19 novel coronavirus as a pandemic, the Selah School District is in discussions about potential impacts to our school system. We will provide further guidance by noon on Thursday, March 12.
Parents, Staff and Community-
With the continued media attention and rise in the number of cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, the Selah School District has launched an informational website that will contain resources about the situation. There are links that contain updates from the Centers for Disease Control, the Washington State Department of Health and the Yakima Health District. Information is also available about how you can be prepared, as well as educational resources.
As a district, we are working daily with the Yakima Health District to stay current with the latest developments and will be following instructions about preventing the spread of the virus. In addition, our custodial team is being extra vigilant in its cleaning procedures of our schools during this time.
The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority. As a district, we are taking this situation seriously and will stay on top of any developments that require us to act. These are very fluid circumstances that change daily. Decisions on events, field trips, visitors from outside of the Valley, professional development for staff and any closures to schools will be made in accordance with recommendations and with safety in mind.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to a building principal or the District Office.