Lyn Gay, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Port Angeles, left, and Michell Gentry of Americorps help distribute school supplies during the Port Angeles School District’s annual back to school event, held Saturday at the Lincoln Center. Organizers arranged this year’s supplies giveaway as a drive-thru event to mitigate the danger of COVID-19 in an enclosed space. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Lyn Gay, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Port Angeles, left, and Michell Gentry of Americorps help distribute school supplies during the Port Angeles School District’s annual back to school event, held Saturday at the Lincoln Center. Organizers arranged this year’s supplies giveaway as a drive-thru event to mitigate the danger of COVID-19 in an enclosed space. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam schools plan distance learning

Procedures in place

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.

“We can’t afford” to bring students and teachers back to brick-and-mortar buildings “and not have insurance coverage,” he said.

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.

Crescent school

“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.”

The district in Joyce had been planning all along for the possibility of opening remotely, but staff had put a lot of effort into developing a hybrid model, Bingham said.

“We have plans and processes and procedures but we need to practice them and we need to reevaluate them after the very first day,” he said.

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

“In terms of technology, we’re in good shape,” Bingham said.

The same is not necessarily true for internet connectivity.

Some children may be brought into the building for access to computer labs in a safe, socially-distanced manner, Bingham said.

Students in 6-12 grades are expected to pick up materials on campus on Wednesday.with them divided by times and entrances so as to keep them a safe distance from each other.

Elementary students will experience a “soft opening” on Thursday and Friday. Teachers are organizing half-hour conference times for students with their parents, Bingham said.

On Aug. 31, the district will begin bringing in small groups of students who need to be served with in-person instruction, he 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.

They will be dispersed during re-engagement conferences that will be scheduled with teachers. Letters detailing schedules and with other information will be going out to parents beginning as early as Monday, Brewer said.

Asked about the difference between the online Seaview Academy and the now-online regular program, Brewer said the primary difference is the schedule. Seaview students work at their own pace, while other students will have a more set schedule, for instance, beginning class each day at 8 a.m.

All-day child care options will be available through the YMCA and Comfort and Cozy at Stevens Middle School, Port Angeles High School, Roosevelt Elementary and Dry Creek Elementary.

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/.

Sequim

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.

“There won’t be any completely off-line learning packets,” Clark said.

Teaching will be face-to-face for those who cannot learn 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.

The school district has purchased hot spots to be distributed to those who need them.

Clark estimates that some 98-99 percent of the students have been taken care of.

But while some families can”t afford internet service, about 15 others can’t connect to the internet because of their homes’ locations.

“We’re exploring using the high school cafeteria” — a standalone facility with restrooms where some 15 to 18 students could be housed with social distancing .

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.

Quillayute Valley

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.

“It will look very different than the spring remote learning plan,” Reaume said.

The curriculum and assessments are aligned to state standards and allows for face-to-face and in-the-platform learning, she said.

Students will virtually attend scheduled sessions with their teachers. Teachers also will provide office hours.

“It’s flexible for families with multiple children, families who may have older kids who are working,” Reaume said. “It provides multiple ways for students to learn.

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.

Limited in-person learning opportunities will be provided for highly impacted students such as special education students, or families with no access to the internet.

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.

Cape Flattery

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.”

By the end of the summer, all teaching staff on both the Neah Bay and Clallam Bay campuses have received a week-long professional development training, learning how to tech online. Parkin said.

Because of community feedback about a need to streamline, the district will use four main platforms, Parkin said.

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.

Parkin envisions a slow start when the district opens on Sept. 3.

The main focus is to reestablish our relationships with the students” and offer then support both in learning the platforms and the new method of instruction as well as social and emotional contact.

Teachers also will work with parents to offer technology support .

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.”

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