Sequim School District considers change to elementary model

Shift would put preK-2 in one school, grades 3-5 in another

SEQUIM — The Sequim School District is gauging staff interest in changing its elementary grade school instruction model from two schools to a pre-kindergarten-grade 2 and grades 3-5 model.

The Sequim district has students in kindergarten-fifth grade at Greywolf Elementary in Carlsborg and Helen Haller Elementary at the district’s main campus.

Jane Pryne, interim superintendent, said Monday that 117 staffers responded to the survey that asked for thoughts on three queries: What is your experience with a P-2, 3-5 educational model (scale of 1-4)? Do you think this model of delivering instruction is beneficial for students (yes or no)? And, explain why or why not this is beneficial model for students.

Of the 117 who responded, about 61 people indicated the shift would be a good idea now, Pryne said, while 51 opposed the change and five responded that they didn’t have enough information.

“What I was interested in was the many comments that people gave,” Pryne told school board members Monday night.

She said that many respondents felt it’s too soon to make a big transition, considering the current upheaval in daily school life.

About half of those who responded indicated they were “novices” to the P-2, 3-5 educational model, Pryne noted Monday

The conversation about the change has sparked considerable interest within the district, she said.

“I’ve had people visiting my office,” she said. “We are listening and taking everything into account.”

Pryne said she will take the survey back to a committee formed at looking at the elementary school shift and report back to the board. The boaqrd;s next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 26.

That regualr meeting will be the first in-person board meeting in months but will take on a “hybrid” form; like previous virtual meetings, the April 26 meeting will be held via Microsoft Teams but board members and attendees can meet at the Sequim High School cafeteria, 601 N. Sequim Ave. Those attending need to register in advance, Pryne said.

Only two people per table will be allowed and all attendees will be facing the same direction, she said.

“I know that the (COVID) numbers are trending the way we don’t want them to go,” Pryne said Monday. “We’ll be very mindful of the protocols.”

Board President Brandino Gibson said he’s unsure whether the board would offer final approval of a change to the elementary education model or rather get a report from Pryne once the decision had been finalized.

“This (change) would fall under a superintendent decision,” Gibson said Tuesday.

“This discussion has gone back to the (former superintendent) Gary Neal days,” Gibson said, and could if implemented address a number of issues ranging from facility space and class sizes to equity issues and more.

Board members had learned about the possible change through the superintendents’ weekly district updates, Gibson said, but hadn’t discussed it in a open meeting until Monday night.

In other board action:

• The board accepted the resignation of Rebecca Stanton, principal at Helen Haller Elementary School, effective July 31. Stanton has served as the school’s top administrator since July 2016, succeeding Russ Lodge. She was the school’s assistant principal in 2015-2016 and had 10 years teaching experience prior, including six years at the fourth grade level and four years instructing physical education.

• Student representative Olivia Preston, a senior at Sequim High School, noted that she is planning for student reps to meet with SHS groups such as athletic teams or clubs to gauge their experience during the COVID pandemic and report back to the board. “I think it would be fantastic; (the) voice of the student is so incredibly important,” board director Eric Pickens said.

• Pryne said district staff are hoping that by April 26 they will have selected the top two or three companies to oversee the district’s upcoming capital projects, and that board directors could select that lead entity at its May 3 meeting. Voters in February approved a four-year, $15-million levy for various repairs and upgrades across Sequim campuses.

• Board directors heard from staff at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who detailed the organization’s recent donation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Kits to Sequim Middle School students;

• As was the case last academic year, the school district will be accepting new out-of-district, or out-of-attendance-area requests for the 2021-2022 school year, board members agreed Monday. Sequim School District residents will be placed first at the K-5 level, and a waiting list will be compiled and based on available space in grade specific levels. Out-of-district requests will be reviewed in August for possible placement. Out-of-district Choice students and out of attendance area Intra-District transfer students, enrolled in the system in 2015-2016 school year, will be allowed to stay until graduation. Children of a full-time certificated or classified Sequim School District employee will be allowed to attend, even if the family lives out of the district. No new intra-district transfers will be accepted, however.

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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