Schools aim for full-time class in fall

Plans call for in-person instruction with masks

North Olympic Peninsula school district administrators and educators have been planning for the return of students to full-time, in-person classroom instruction this fall.

Masks in the classroom are still likely to be part of the in-person learning equation going forward in September, despite rising COVID-19 vaccination rates and the opening of vaccinations to those 12 and older.

The state has required that each public, charter and tribal school have a Student Academic and Well-Being Recovery Plan filed by today — a document that details how each education agency will address student needs resulting from school building closures and extended time in remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Filing a plan unlocks Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II and III funding from two federal COVID supplemental relief bills passed last December ($54.3 billion) and March ($122.7 billion) with local education associations responsible for reserving at least 20 percent of funding received to address learning loss.

“This is probably the most important thing we are going to do this spring because it initiates a promise for the future at both the (Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction) level and the federal level because the ESSER funds are held in advance until we have this plan posted,” interim Chimacum School Superintendent David Engle said at last Wednesday’s school board meeting. “It’s pretty high stakes and pretty important for us at the district.

“It’s focused on: Are you paying attention to the information in your district? Are you paying attention to disproportionality? Are you diagnosing students with conditions? Are you mindful of achievement gaps, and do you have a system that can self-regulate and improve?”

Port Townsend School Board approved a similar plan on May 20.

Work on these plans began in mid-April, a few weeks before state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal’s May 13 announcement that Washington students will be learning from their school buildings full-time this fall.

“Students may choose to enroll in a remote learning program, but school districts may not offer hybrid or remote learning to the exclusion of full-time, in-person learning for any student who seeks that option,” Reykdal said last month.

School districts also should prepare to provide instruction for students who are excluded from school due to illness or quarantine, the state Department of Health said in a statement.

The state agency also recommends that “all students, school personnel, volunteers and visitors must wear at least a cloth face covering or an acceptable alternative when indoors, as well as outdoors where a minimum of 6 feet distancing cannot be maintained.”

State guidelines indicate elementary school students will need to keep at least 3 feet apart, while all students need to stay 6 feet apart during lunches.

The Port Angeles School District plan, which received school board approval Thursday evening, is really two plans: the OSPI-required plan and a more detailed document that drills down deeper into the district’s equity issues.

“Our district has not followed, you know, the rollout of returning to in-person learning and planning — we’ve led,” Superintendent Marty Brewer said. … “This is really what’s going to set Port Angeles apart as we bring our students back to start addressing the learning loss is the depth and the knowledge and the understanding of the work now.”

Assistant Superintendent Michelle Olsen was part of a group that developed a Port Angeles School District-specific equity tool that examined district data in order to discover patterns.

In an example, Olsen discussed an elementary school that sees 60 to 66 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“That group of students accounted for 80.6 percent of the [school’s] excessive absences,” she said. “So that’s how far we were drilling down by group to see where we need to put in some support.”

The district sent out a survey to students, parents and staffers earlier in May.

Out of 476 parent responses, 85 percent wanted to see full-time, in-person learning this fall.

Student well-being is covered in the plan as the district survey showed mental health worsened during the last year for 60 percent of 142 student responders at all grade levels and improved for just more than 10 percent of students surveyed.

At the high school, 61 percent of freshmen have one or more D or F grades. Staff survey results indicated the highest preference for professional development trainings was for learning loss interventions (56 of 140 staff surveyed).

Early-start elementary options will be provided for students this August, and the Lincoln Center will house credit recovery availabilities this summer.

Other districts will host summer learning opportunities, such as Quilcene, where all students going into grades one through 12 can take part in sessions planned from July 19 to Aug. 19.

Sequim’s “Fall Back to School Plan 2021-2022” was approved at the school board’s May 24 meeting.

The plan, available at sequimschools.org, details procedures for maintaining healthy classroom buildings designed to mitigate the possible spread of COVID-19, including appropriate physical distancing, wellness screening procedures and mask policies.

Sequim’s had input from all five school principals, district department leads and some assistant principals and teachers. The district also conducted parent and student surveys in May.

“We feel we had a well-rounded group of people for the plan,” Interim Superintendent Jane Pryne told the Sequim Gazette.

Brewer cleared up any confusion for audience members after the Port Angeles School Board approved the plan.

“We are coming back to school five days a week full-time next school year,” he said. “And so that’s our No. 1 priority, and that’s outlined in this plan that’s expected by the state of Washington, and we’re going to work to achieve that in our school system.”

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected]eninsuladailynews.com.

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