“Goodbye 2020” -- a phrase heard often in recent weeks. The year has been a tremendous challenge for so many families, businesses and individuals. From a school vantage point, there has certainly been no other like it. Schools closed on March 13, and now in December many students have yet to return to their school in-person. Classes, graduations, athletics, dances, and events of all types are missing – and particularly painful to the participants, the students.
Perhaps more than anything, the pandemic of 2020 taught us much about a school system many took for granted. Academics are at the heart of the schools, and the challenges to transfer the academic world to a virtual, remote system was more complex than ever imagined.
Yesterday afternoon, Governor Inslee held a press conference regarding pre K-12 schools and bringing more students back for in-person instruction. You can watch the press conference on TVW’s website.
The data he shared provides more evidence that the success we have seen in our schools is a direct result of the precautionary measures we’re taking such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, good handwashing and hygiene, enhanced cleaning and ventilation, increased access to testing, and thorough contact tracing. It demonstrates what we have learned in our pilot and other in-person learning models across the country - that schools have minimal virus spread when we adhere to safety protocols.
The governor encouraged districts to continue bringing back more students and highlighted some revised guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health. The new guidelines state that districts may bring back additional students for in-person learning, even with higher rates of COVID-19 transmission, as long as health and safety protocols can be successfully followed.
My initial take is that we are in a great position to keep moving forward with our plans to bring back more students for in-person learning, specifically our 2nd-5th graders. As you know, our plans for 2nd grade in-person learning were established and delayed in November. We recently agreed to a model for 3rd-5th grade in person learning. The 3rd-5th grade plans were shared with impacted staff today and elementary families will receive more information and a survey tomorrow. It is my sincere hope that this now opens the door to the possibility of seeing our secondary students in-person, in some fashion, sometime this school year.
Yes, goodbye 2020. Almost ten months after the March closure, we believe we can see the shape of 2021. We are directing our efforts to be in the position where 2nd grade children join the K-1; where grade 3-5 children return in hybrid; and grade 6-12 students find partial re-entry in a hybrid designed for them. Athletics, drama, music, forensics and similar activities have hope of returning together with teachers and students in classrooms. Many details remain to be determined, but 2021 brings us that spirit. Thanks to so many who have been so patient, but have waited anxiously for this time.
Hello, 2021. You are so welcome!
Dr. Art Jarvis