Port Angeles School Board OKs hybrid return plan

Student face-to-face instruction staggered

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School Board has approved a reopening plan that would divide students into two groups and provide in-person instruction twice a week either Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays.

Remote learning would occur Wednesdays and the other two days when students are not on campus as the district grapples with COVID-19 restrictions.

The “AB AB” hybrid for the 2020-21 school year was recommended by district Superintendent Martin Brewer and approved by a unanimous school board vote Thursday.

“We know this is going to be difficult for our community,” board President Sandy Long said in the special meeting.

“I sense that everybody in our community has one goal, and that is to take care of our children and give them the very best education that we can possibly do in the safest manner, and that’s what I promise to the community that this board will do.”

Brewer presented Thursday an 84-page draft reopening plan for the next school year. The plan is available at www.portangelesschools.org.

Every school district in the state must plan for three delivery models because of changing circumstances with COVID-19.

The models are in-person “brick and mortar” learning at school, continued remote education and a hybrid with part-time school learning and part-time remote instruction.

“We know, as an educational institution, we need to do our very best to maximize as much in-person time as possible and still meet the health requirements that are required by the state of Washington,” Brewer said.

Six-foot physical distance restrictions, which are required by the state, will not allow for normal classes.

“It is impossible to bring 20 to 30 learners in a classroom and maintain 6-foot social distance,” Brewer said.

Other hybrids were considered, including alternating weeks of in-person schooling, a half-day AM PM model an AA BB arrangement where students would go to campus on back-to-back days.

Each of the models offered by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) was evaluated by a 51-member work group, Brewer said.

District officials surveyed parents and staff and held a community forum around the various hybrid options.

After reviewing survey and forum data, the work group and district administration concluded that the AB AB hybrid would be the best model for Port Angeles, Brewer said.

Families will have the option of choosing an all-online format by enrolling at Seaview Academy.

The district will mail letters to its students’ families Tuesday with information about the AB AB hybrid.

Families will be asked to choose whether they want their students to attend in-person classes on Mondays and Thursdays or on Tuesdays and Fridays — or attend the online academy.

Parents will be asked to make their selection by July 17.

Any family that does not respond will be contacted by the end of the month so district administrators and staff can begin to plan for the “1,001 logistics” that need to be considered, Brewer said.

A final reopening plan will be approved by the school board Aug. 17.

Under current requirements for COVID-19, students would be required to wear face coverings at school.

Students 12 or under would be given the option of wearing a face shield instead of a mask. Brewer said the state Department of Health had been “firm” on requiring face coverings for students and staff.

When in-person classes were canceled last spring, the district adopted emergency rules that meant no students would fail courses.

“Quite frankly, that can’t continue into next calendar year,” Brewer said.

“We have heard loud and clear from staff, and also community members, that that sense of accountability needs to return, and we will be preparing for that implementation next fall.”

Every student in the district will be assigned a Google Chromebook to help with online instruction.

Child care was identified as a “common challenge” with each of the hybrids, Brewer said.

District officials have been working with child care providers and agencies in the region to provide before-school and after-school child care at each of the elementary schools, Brewer said.

Child care will be provided on days when students are physically on campus.

“That’s just one of the many logistics that we’ll have to work out this summer that will be very, very challenging,” Brewer said.

For athletics, the district will follow the guidance of state and local health officials and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, or WIAA.

Clallam County is in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase reopening plan. Interscholastic competition is prohibited in Phase 2 but allowed in Phase 3.

“The health department’s going to be a key driver in that,” Brewer told the school board.

Most elective activities like music and physical education will be part of the district’s reopening plan.

“We’ll have to change how some electives are taught,” Brewer said.

“Obviously, we can’t pack 15 kids in a band space and play flutes and horns. That’s just not going to work. But we’re going to have to challenge the teachers to come up with (an) alternate path to instruction.”

Board member Cindy Kelly said the hybrid model was “not perfect.”

“This is not something we want to do, but we do have to work on a plan,” Kelly said.

Board member Sarah Methner said there was “no blame” for the disruptions.

“The only thing to blame here is COVID,” Methner said.

Methner added that the Seaview Academy would be an “excellent opportunity” for parents who are worried about sending their kids back to school.

“Again, we’ve got a lot of work to do this summer, but together we’ll get though it,” Brewer said.

“The board and this community has my commitment we’ll do the very best we can for our kids and our families. We’re going to put in the time to create the model that can support this community.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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