School districts across Clallam County have scrambled since Tuesday to revamp plans to correspond with state and local recommendations for online-learning only when classes resume in September.
Quillayute Valley School District officials in Forks had to pivot the hardest since officials there had planned to bring back every student into the buildings for in-person learning five days a week.
Crescent School District officials in Joyce had to move the quickest since the first day of school is Thursday.
All others will reopen in September. Most had planned a blend of in-person and remote instruction.
Although superintendents agreed with the recommendation given the quickly rising number of new cases of COVID-19 in the county, they also have another reason to make the change. School districts would be exposed to liability if they don’t take the advice of the state Department of Health and the county health officer.
As Port Angeles School Superintendent Marty Brewer said in an online meeting with parents on Friday, his district’s insurance company has told officials that it would not provide coverage if the district were to move outside of the recommendations.
Officials in all districts recognize that distance learning is not appropriate for a small number of students — for instance, special education students — and are making provisions for some in-person teaching conducted under health guidelines.
For all, it’s an unprecedented sea change from in-person to online education.
“We’re starting earlier than than anyone else on the (North Olympic) Peninsula,” said Superintendent Dave Bingham, pointing out that an earlier start means an earlier end to the school year and his experience is that “people don’t engage much in third week of June.”
Both of the district’s schools, the Olympic Peninsula Connection for homeschooled students through eighth grade and the traditional brick-and-mortar students — a total of 365 as of last count in June — are online as the year begins.
The district is providing Chromebooks to 3-12-grade students and Chromepads to students in K-2. It also is handing out hotspots to those who need them
Some children may be brought into the building for access to computer labs in a safe, socially-distanced manner, Bingham said.
For more information, see the district website at https://www.csd313.org/.
Port Angeles schools
Brewer told parents Friday that more than 100 staff members have been working throughout the summer to get ready for opening on Sept. 3.
“We have put the time in to make this learning experience very different from the spring,” when the switch to online learning had to be done in a state of emergency, Brewer said.
A significant change is that, given the online format, middle and high school students will take only four classes at a time, although they will still get seven classes per semester, Brewer said.
“Having children engage in seven courses (online) is not a reasonable expectation for most,” Brewer said.
Another change is an emphasis on social/emotional curriculum to help with the isolation of young people.
Each student will receive a Chromebook, he said. The district has 3,100 Chromebooks now with more on order for the estimated 3,500 students.
Brewer will conduct more luncheons with parents to answer questions in the weeks ahead. Each will be from noon to 1 p.,m.; on Zoom weekly on Fridays through Sept. 25.
For more information, see the district website at https://portangelesschools.org/.
The sudden change was “more disappointing than it was hard,” said Sequim Superintendent Rob Clark.
“We want to have kids in our buildings. … I feel badly for the kindergartners because there’s just something special about the first day of school.”
The sudden rise in COVID-19 cases at this time “may be a blessing in disguise” because it relieves the fear of opening classrooms on Sept. 2 only to have to immediately shut them again if cases climbed, say, after Labor Day.
The district is handing out laptops and Chromebooks and is making arrangements for some students to have packets and have some type of learning that’s less online.
The grading system will return to the standard grades (A-F).
A significant change for teachers and students will be moving all K-12 students — all 2,600 of them at last count — to a single management system: Canvas.
Teachers, students and parents will re-engage each other during that first week of school — Wednesday through Friday — some in one-on-one conferences. Appointments will be made this week, Clark said.
More guidance is on the district website at sequimschools.org.
The Quillayute Valley School District staff had spent the summer preparing for in-person education in district facilities, but the rise in COVID-19 case numbers in Clallam County coupled with the recommendation that all county schools begin the year online, necessitated a late change.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Diana Reaume outlined how Forks students will access education when the 2020-21 school year begins Sept. 2 during an online meeting with parents.
Reaume said the Fuel Education platform will be used to teach students in grades K-12.
Each student in the district will be issued a Chromebook, charging cord and headset.
Internet connectivity will be offered through CenturyLink and wifi hot spots for families who demonstrate the need.
Breakfast and lunch will be delivered to distribution centers for students enrolled in the district.
More information on the start of school will be provided to families this week by the district, she said.
The district website is at https://www.qvschools.org/Page/9.
The Cape Flattery School District had told parents in an Aug. 4 letter that the district would go to a remote learning model when it opened on Sept. 3.
“The district was already in a 1-to-1 technology equipment model,” when the health recommendation was made, said Superintendent Michelle Parkin. “All students had some kind of electronic device.”
Connectivity is often poor on the West End, so the district has purchased hot spots for some students. Others don’t even have cell phone service so other arrangements will have to be made.
The district served last school year 383 students in Neah Bay and 124 in Clallam Bay.
“We know that face-to-face instruction is the best method of educating our children,”Parkin said. But “we are an extended family, so safety really rose to the top.”