[Guest article by Linda Grez]
Elementary students continue to phase in hybrid/in-person classes on an AM/PM cohort schedule. K-3rd grades have returned and grades 4-5 are planned for Monday, 3/1/21. Those grades plus the Specialty students, Life Skills, TLC (and small groups of students in for intervention at the secondary level) will bring the total number of students on school campuses in in-person and hybrid programs to 2,700. Middle and high school students are planned to return no sooner than March 15 (with grade 10 expected to phase in one week later).
The District’s COVID numbers fall in the Department of Health’s moderate range (129 cases per100k population over the past 14 days), which recommends prioritizing the return of elementary students while using the period to demonstrate the ability to limit transmission in schools in anticipation of middle and high school starts. The District continues to refine its safety operations as they learn from the phasing stages.
The District is still seeking additional staffing (bus drivers and substitute teachers) and working with the teachers and classified employee unions to get agreement to a Memorandum of Understanding which must be voted on and approved before middle and high schools will reopen for hybrid classes.
The District is working with OSPI (State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) to change the social distancing guidance to 3 ft from 6 ft. for Fall 2021. Schools cannot fit all the students and staff for full-time in-person instruction otherwise.
Budget: District Revenues are down, and expenditures are up. A $2.3M draw on Fund reserves is expected, but the budget trend is improving. Additional funding may be coming from the State and Federal programs to remedy shortfalls, but there will likely still be a draw on reserves for this year.
A detailed Technology programs expenditures report was provided, showing planned use of the final year of the almost $19 million 2018 Tech levy, which will expire after 2022. The District’s primary Education Program and Operations levy (a 4-year, $62 million phased levy) also expires in 2022. The District expects to put new levy proposals up for elections ballots in 2022.
Open Public Meetings update: The state rules around Open Public Meetings now allow School Board meetings to occur in person, but with specific distancing, capacity and safety rules that may interfere with efficient meeting management and might require additional A/V communication and cleaning staffing expenses. For now, the Board decided to continue with remote meetings protocol.
Superintendent Search: Applications are due by Monday, March 1. Interviews are expected to begin in mid-March, with a second round of finalist interviews in public late in March.