[Guest article by Linda Grez]
An afternoon announcement of Dr. Manahan’s early retirement plan caught the community by surprise. In the board meeting that night, he read his statement about plans to retire effective June 30, 2021. Board members and Student Reps effusively thanked Dr. Manahan for his 3 years of service at the District and acknowledged his role in leading many positive changes.
The District plans to hire a recruiting firm to help hire the next Superintendent. The firm interview will be broadcast in a January 20th special Board meeting and the public is invited to view it.
BOARD LEADERSHIP CHANGES
New School Board Officers were elected to leadership roles: Melissa Johnson was elected as the incoming President, Geoff Doy as Vice President and Gary Fancher as the WSSDA Legislative Representative.
The American Association of School Districts has accredited and commended Mount Si High School and Two Rivers School.
Public comment (20 letters) was again briefly summarized as pertaining to the need to return students to in-person learning, the request for a timeline for return to secondary school, identification of barriers to reopening, the need to improve mental health and concerns about the lifelong impacts of depression, and GPA impacts on college acceptances. Board President Johnson stated, “We feel the pain every day and we want to get kids back in.” One especially moving and eloquent student email comment was read.
Student Rep. Emma Cullen presented a recap of her student feedback survey: the difficulties of remote learning during the pandemic include mental health concerns, freshman feeling ‘lost’ and seniors feeling a loss of hope and missing senior year experiences. Some students are scared to go back because they see peers not being safe and thus are concerned about transmission risks (roughly 30%), while others are eager to return (70%). Ms. Cullen offered her opinion that “Kids should not be afraid to go back to school.” The full text of public comment and student input (anonymously) will be published in the Meeting’s Minutes.
CONSENT AGENDA AND ENROLLMENT REPORT
The ‘Consent Agenda’ was approved as presented without any discussion, as usual, containing regular reports such as the Personnel Action Report, Enrollment Reports, and Coaching Stipends. Each of the items are available in the online Agenda portal. While passage of a Consent Agenda is a commonly used method to allow expeditious approval of regular reports, it is notable that there was no discussion about the enrollment report, which shows a significant drop in enrollment that will affect state funding and the District budget (approximately 400 fewer students will cause a loss of several million dollars in revenue). See https://www.boarddocs.com/wa/svsd410/Board.nsf for the ‘public site’ link to Board Meeting Agendas and documents.
Assistant Superintendent Dan Schlodtfelt and Digital learning Director Scott Beebe discussed progress towards Kindergarten and 1st-grade re-openings, set for January 19th and 29th, respectively.
Parent communications have been sent out with links to website resources, including parent handbooks with checklists, masking instructions, individual school plans and welcoming videos, posted with multiple page links. Mr. Schlodtfelt commended Instruction Coaches who have worked tirelessly to create and share resources for staff, and Principals and Assistant Principals at each elementary who are working above and beyond the call of duty for successful restarts. Health Attestations are required daily and each school, as well as the District, will have a COVID dashboard showing the numbers of cases.
Parents will be alerted in case of any ‘close contacts’ – defined as contact with a COVID positive student or teacher for 15 minutes or more within 6 feet over a 24 hour period. In those cases, the District will contact parents. There is not expected to be much virus transmission in schools – data is showing more transmissions occur outside of school (community and home-based). When students must quarantine, they will have access to asynchronous learning, or if necessary, they will be added to a remote learning group in their grade.
Students must bring their laptop/tablet devices to school each day and chargers will be available on site.
UREGENT NEED FOR BUS DRIVERS, SUBSTITUTES AND PARAEDUCATORS
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Stokes spoke about the severe Bus Driver shortage, which will likely impact service areas and force bus runs to be doubled. The Elementary schedule depends on adequate bus drivers.
Dr. Manahan pleaded for people to apply to be substitutes, paraeducators and bus drivers. The District pays for bus driver training and hourly (PT) salary starts at $26.13/ hr. Under Emergency rules, those with an AA degree and higher degrees can apply to be an emergency substitute or teacher. See Job Postings at https://www.svsd410.org/Page/97.
MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOLS – TARGET TO RE-OPEN IN MARCH
Assistant Superintendent Ginger Callison described Secondary school reopening work towards a goal of in-person return in March.
Students all scheduled for their second semesters and hybrid schedules are being finalized, most likely using an A/B/A/B schedule.
Middle and high school sites are being prepared for students, including signage, supplies and new tools such as Swivls which will assist teachers in leading remote and in-person instruction simultaneously.
Transportation is also a challenge for secondary levels with the bus driver shortage and to prevent additional students from mingling before and after school.
The next steps include finalizing proposed schedules with unions and principals, completing safety plans and reorientation programs for students, communication plans and ensuring adequate staffing for nurses, subs and other staff.
SECONDARY INTERVENTION UPDATE
Schools have been begun providing supports for students who are failing classes in the form of on-site attendance and support at 3 Middle schools and Mount Si High School. Plans for Two Rivers are in progress. Early indications show increasing numbers of students in each school and some positive movement in students’ grades and attendance.
Board members and staff reiterated the need for community support in solving transportation and staffing issues. Those who can safely transport students to school are encouraged to do so.
The Special Meeting to interview a Superintendent Recruiting firm is Wednesday, 1/20 at 3 pm.
The Next School Board meeting is Thursday, 1/28.