Peninsula school district chiefs expect longer closure

State considering options

Public school officials in Clallam and Jefferson counties are preparing for the possible shutdown of educational facilities for the rest of the school year after Gov. Jay Inslee extended his statewide stay-at-home order to May 4.

Inslee’s mandate Thursday to combat the COVID-19 pandemic overlaps his earlier closure order that shuts down schools through April 24.

Inslee will decide soon on the school closure issue.

“If there is an announcement, it would be early [this] week,” his spokeswoman Tara Lee said Friday.

Many districts are on spring break this week. Others, including Sequim and Crescent, were on break last week and will return this week.

Katy Payne, a spokeswoman with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), said Friday that Inslee and OSPI are looking at several options.

They include closing school through the end of the year or opening schools Monday, Wednesday and Friday for one group of students, and Tuesdays and Thursdays for another group of students to maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see an extended closure,” Payne said.

Port Angeles

Port Angeles Superintendent Marty Brewer said district staff has built a learning model and infrastructure support for a lengthy shutdown.

“We are trying to build a structure to be able to provide access to a digital-type curriculum across the entire community and meet the needs of students and families whether we return to school [April] 27th or May 4, or are out through the end of the year,” he said.

“We have taken a bricks-and-mortar model in three weeks to the day and we have transformed that into a digital distance-learning model.”

Port Townsend

Port Townsend Superintendent John Polm also anticipates an extended closure.

“At this time, we do not expect a significant change to the learning opportunities we are providing for our students,” he said in an email.

“Teachers are poised to provide opportunities as long as we need to. Staff members are busy preparing materials and developing systems to distribute materials, technology and lessons that students can do remotely.

“Should the closure continue, we will be ready.”

He said the district had not addressed the idea of a split schedule.

“We have had our hands full with this monumental change to traditional school,” Polm said, adding that his staff had been ” nimble and focused on meeting the needs of our students and families.”

The biggest concern is for those students who lack consistent internet services or have limited support for their learning, Polm said, voicing a problem mentioned by several superintendents on the North Olympic Peninsula, where rural areas, especially on the West End, lack broadband.

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery Schools Superintendent Michelle Parkin said she expects a four-to-six-week lag of continuing to practice safety precautions after COVID-19 cases peak.

“For us being rural, it takes more time for those health implications to reach us,” Parkin said. “We are having to prepare for a longer term simply because of our location.

“We are planning for the real possibility of not returning back to campus for this school year.”

Parkin said educational services have been delivered to students in Neah Bay and Clallam Bay by dispensing Chromebooks and tablets. Assignment packets are being given to families with homework assignments to students who lack computers or don’t have internet access.

“As far as accessing WiFi, we are starting to collect real data on which homes do not have the access,” she said. “Our principals are now reaching out to their teachers, and the teachers are communicating with the students to find out what are some of the challenges they are facing. We want to move away from paper packets.”

The school district, Makah Tribal Council and the Clallam Bay Lions Club are collaborating on meeting the challenge of the pandemic, Parkin said.

“We take care of ourselves, because it takes a community to raise our future.”

Quillayute Valley

Quillayute Valley Schools Superintendent Diana Reaume said the district has contingency plans to continue educating students through the end of the school year.

Education for 1,000 brick-and-mortar students and 2,500 online students “has not missed a beat,” Reaume said.

The district plans a town hall-style school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. today. The public can listen, without interacting with the board, but can ask questions via chat.

The link is youtu.be/EBoIquqTfhk.

Crescent schools

Crescent School Superintendent Dave Bingham started a Zoom town hall meeting last Wednesday and had 56 people call in with questions, he said.

He plans to continue that each Wednesday until June 24. The meetings are at 5:30 p.m. The link is on the district website at www.csd313.org.

The district is offering online opportunities through a Google platform and some hybrid solutions for the 20-25 percent of the 240 brick-and-motor students who lack internet service.

The Crescent Educational Foundation has purchased a few hotspots that are expected in this week. WiFi is available in the school parking lot.

Sequim schools

Sequim Schools Superintendent Rob Clark predicted Friday that the governor will close schools at least until May 4. He believes there is an 80 percent chance Inslee will keep children out of school through the end of the school year.

He and other superintendents said seniors will still graduate and other grades will matriculate, just as they would have had school been in session. They just won’t be present.

“We want to see them, we miss them, a lot of thing like that, but the scientific basis for bringing kids back is not there.”

Clark said he would be hesitant to bring students back in alternating groups and that the district has not yet developed contingency plans to stay closed to the end of the school year.

“We have our hands full through the next two or three weeks,” he said.

Quilcene schools

Quilcene Schools Superintendent Frank Redmon said in a letter to parents that he expects the school closure to be extended for at least a week, through May 4.

“There is a lot of speculation around the state about the possibility of not returning to school this year, and at this point I do not have any indication that the Governor or the State Superintendent will give that order,” Redmon said.

“That being said, there is some medical evidence that supports this notion, and so we have been planning for either eventuality.”

Chimacum schools

“If the extension indeed goes longer, I am confident we can address what school looks like at that time,” said Chimacum Schools Superintendent Rick Thompson.

“Superintendents are on a weekly call with Superintendent Reykdal and our regional ESD Superintendent group is conferring regularly with ESD 112 Superintendent Greg Lynch, who is doing an incredible job monitoring the situation and providing timely information for local districts.”

Brinnon schools

Brinnon School Superintendent Trish Beathard said in an email that the district planned to continue providing a hybrid learning model that combines online and print resources given the limited WiFi access faced by some families.

“We have created a model that will help our students stay engaged whether we return in a few weeks or not,” she said.

Quileute Tribal School

Mark Jacobson, superintendent of Quileute Tribal School, which has a compact with the state of Washington for educating students, said Inslee should have already extended the closures.

“There may still be some [COVID-19] cases in May,” he said, adding teachers have been preparing to provide educational materials to students through the end of the school year

“I’d just as soon they closed it for the year,” he said

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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