August 5, 2020 (En Español)
Dear Selah School District Families,
While it has been an unusual year, I certainly hope that you have remained safe and enjoyed a warm summer. As a District, we have been working diligently to prepare for our return to school, and all are excited for the potential that exists for us to reunite in person in the coming months. Over 150 people have been taking part in focus groups this summer discussing options for returning in accordance with the guidance that we received from the Yakima County Health Department as well as the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
During this COVID-19 pandemic, our September 9 “return to learning” will be quite different this year, just like most things these days. Notwithstanding, the health and safety of our students and staff remain our top priorities; however, we are just as committed to providing a quality education. With safety, security, and learning in mind, I’m pleased to share an update on our plans to deliver education this fall.
In consultation and coordination with the health department and other school districts in Yakima Valley, our district, along with others from our region and around the state, will be starting the year in a fully-remote/distance learning model. In this model, all students will learn from home. There remains the possibility for very small groups of students to be able to come into buildings for face-to-face instruction at times. How those students would be identified will be addressed in the weeks ahead. Our plan for now is to keep this schedule in effect for the first trimester of the year, or until approximately December 4, unless health conditions change that allow us to provide more in-person instruction.
This fully-remote/distance learning option will be a significantly enhanced version of the approach that we used in the spring of 2020. We also are offering complete online learning options, which will allow for individual students to move at their own pace. More details from the District, along with information from your child’s school regarding their learning schedule, is forthcoming, so keep a lookout for communication and monitor the “Reopening Schools” link on our website.
We learned from our feedback survey that the fully-remote/distance learning model last spring was not ideal. While nothing can replace in-person instruction, we are thoughtfully committed to developing a high-quality remote learning model that offers robust, supportive, and engaging instruction. I also recognize that each one of you are facing a unique set of your own circumstances that are impacted by this decision. Please know that we will do whatever we can to support our students and families during this time, including resuming meal services and providing technology training. As conditions with the virus progress, we will continue to keep you apprised of any changes or adjustments to the learning and teaching process. Thank you for your patience and unity as we move forward in this unprecedented time. We are here for you!
Shane Backlund, Superintendent
Selah School District
July 16, 2020 (En Español)
Selah School District Learning Community,
As the summer moves on, planning is well underway for the 2020-2021 school year. Nearly 150 people have been participating in focus groups aimed at providing input on reopening Selah schools on September 9. There are focus groups for each school, health & safety protocols, transportation, nutrition, cleaning and disinfecting, Spanish-speaking parents, athletics & activities and working conditions. Group members consist of administrators, school board members, staff, families and students. In addition, information is being used from a reopening survey conducted in June where over 2,200 people participated. The results of this survey can be found here.
The biggest constraint in planning comes from the current social distancing requirements of 6 feet set forth by the Department of Health. This greatly reduces the ability to house students fully in classrooms in most settings. Other requirements include face coverings for everyone in the buildings, increased cleaning measures, improved handwashing and health screening. All of these requirements are being reviewed by the focus groups and will be incorporated into the plans. Also, with Yakima County currently in Phase 1.5, the local Department of Health could also put further measures or restrictions in place in the weeks ahead, including the possibility of limiting face-to-face instruction. The District should have this guidance by August 7, and will update plans accordingly.
The goal of the planning process is to work towards getting back to in-person schooling in a safe manner for students and staff. To accomplish this, the school year will need to begin in a manner in which most will not be familiar. In addition, plans need to include the ability to pivot quickly to a full distance learning model for all students if an outbreak occurs in any of the schools in the District. As of today, the models for next school year will include:
- Split Schedule - Students will be split into two groups. Group A will attend school two designated days of the week, with distance learning occurring the other three from home. Group B students will do distance learning from home while Group A is at school, and attend school two different days of the week. It is a high probability that Wednesday will be a day with no students on campus to allow for a deep disinfecting of the schools, to go along with daily cleaning that will also be done on each campus. Wednesdays would also allow for staff planning, collaboration and training. The District will split the groups based on geographic location, alphabet and/or families so that appropriate child care plans can be made during the distance learning days.
- Full Distance Learning - In this model all students will participate in remote learning from home, similar to what happened the last three months of the 19-20 school year. This model would only be used when schools and/or the District needs to be shut down due to an outbreak of the virus. This will be an improved version of what families experienced in the spring, as the District will be applying lessons learned to ensure a more robust educational experience for students. This option will also be available for families who do not feel comfortable sending their children back to school at all in September.
As the District builds these plans, there is still great effort being made to work towards having as many students as possible attend school in person in September. This includes the possibility of some of our youngest students being able to attend more often than older students due to class size numbers and space availability. More information about the options listed above and the possibility of younger students being on a different schedule will be available with the final plan in mid August.
Other considerations being discussed include additional in-person instruction for students with higher needs as well as working with local daycare providers on options for families in a split schedule model. There is also going to be an option available for families who do not want their children to attend in person at all to begin the year, as indicated earlier in this communication. The outcomes of these considerations will be communicated as part of the overall plan by the middle of August.
While the results of the survey were important for the District to gauge the early opinions of all stakeholders about reopening, more specific information will help fine tune the planning. Families are being asked to complete this additional brief survey to better understand the intentions behind coming back to school in the fall. In short, the District wants to know if families plan on having their children take part in the plans presented as of today. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey.
In closing, the District recognizes that any plan other than a full in-person model will be a challenge for families and will work incredibly hard to do what it can to support everyone as we enter a new normal next school year. Please be on the lookout for additional communication in August and don’t hesitate to reach out to the District Office with any questions. Thank you to all who have and continue to participate in our focus groups as we work as a Viking Community to keep all of us safe and well.