Highlights of the SVSD School Board Meeting 3/25/21

[Guest post by Linda Grez]

Recognition was given to teacher Ms. Pace who earned national certification.

Parent Charlene Grisim provided Public Comment regarding opening up all schools for the full-day and using the 3 ft distancing rule per Gov. Inslee’s announcement today regarding adopting CDC’s 3 ft. guidance (see below) and asking the District to state what Fall learning will look like so parents can plan. The Heights neighborhood has no bus stops, so middle schoolers have to walk a long distance to a stop.

The Consent Agenda was approved, including a Personnel Action Report, Accounts Payable Voucher Registers, Football Coaching Stipends of $20,500 from the Wildcat Boosters, Gifts to the District, and a Bid Acceptance & Contract Award – $81,000 for a Virtual Dissection Table for CTE classes.

Two Rivers School approved a new ASB Constitution naming their mascot, the Orca, stating their colors and modifying the definition of good standing, including competencies. They will issue ASB cards and figure out finances so students can attend MSHS events. Students have worked on 4 community service projects since after the winter break. A high percentage of students are accessing MSHS courses but also like having their own space. The board asked to be updated on the school’s move outcomes and later approved a resolution accepting the Constitution.

The Return to School Update reflected the ever-changing COVID regulatory guidance.

Two hours before the meeting, Governor Inslee issued a significant new proclamation endorsing the CDC’s guidance reducing 6 ft. required social distancing between students to 3 feet and setting ventilation guidelines. Superintendent Manahan showed the work done since the last Board meeting on 3/11/21, which had to respond to the Governor’s 3/15/21 order to make hybrid learning available to all students who request it, providing at least 30% of hours in-person learning by April 5th for elementary and April 19th for secondary, as well as a preliminary response to the new order. Hybrid students in 6th, 9th and 12th grade returned for their first days in person, and next week hybrid grades 10 & 11 will return. SVSD is one of the first Eastside districts to get students back for in-person hybrid learning.

Our local public health authority, PHSKC, is waiting for the state DOH to conduct its review of the data and evidence and revise state-level K-12 guidance accordingly. SVSD will align our resources to updated K-12 guidance. For now, the expectation is for K-12 to follow the current DOH K-12 guidance as required by law.

A number of students appealed their assigned hybrid/remote status, stating their preferences had been incorrectly tabulated. The District was able to accommodate most requests, with only a small number having to change elective classes. The Middle school changes required teachers to have large changes to class sizes and many new students.

Beginning this summer and carrying into the fall, districts will no longer have the option of using the 6-foot minimum between students. As long as trends of reductions in cases continue and most of our state’s adult population has received their COVID vaccine, schools will not need to continue placing students 6 feet apart.

The CDC guidance only recommends reducing the distance between students, not staff or between staff and student(s), which remains 6 feet. The CDC also recommends 6 feet of distance between students in certain circumstances, including, but not limited to: ○ When masks can’t be worn, such as when eating. ○ If middle and high school students are not cohorted and the community transmission is above 200 per 100,000 population over a 14-day period, or test positivity is above 10%. ○ When they are in situations with the express purpose of increased exhalation, such as choir, band, or physical education, the science continues to support layered mitigation measures in schools, including the universal wearing of masks.

The State DOH will communicate sometime in Mid-Spring regarding additional guidance for this fall. While it looks more and more like full school days every day, there will be challenges with class sizes of 30 or more in Middle schools to get 3 ft distancing. Middle and high school students take selected classes and don’t ‘cohort’ and with lunch will still need 6 ft. Band/choir/PE will still require a 6 ft distance.

There are also ongoing issues with transportation limitations, with just not enough drivers for district distances. They will still need all departments and unions to help address the problems which have to be overcome to get all kids back in school full-time.

The District is ’staying the course now’ – not changing immediately and will have to evaluate, measure buildings to plan space and proceed with caution. The soonest next changes will probably be after spring break before they would start new phasing in. Tasks include planning for transportation, measuring classrooms and common spaces to allow 6 ft distance to teachers, and getting union agreements.

Vaccine status: The District has about 1,000 employees and, with help from health partners, has made vaccines available to all. From the latest list of 350 staff who still needed shots, it appears only 50 were left on the list.

The District will use its planned make-up day, May 28th for school time lost during January power outages.

Mount Si High school Athletes participating in the football game on Saturday, March 20, have tested positive for COVID-19. The district follows the guidance of public health to quarantine MSHS football players, support staff and coaches – to curb further spread of COVID-19. The students who have been notified will need to engage in school remotely, from home, during their quarantine period. This resulted in the cancellation of 2 home football games and is disappointing to those who have been training. The District will try to have some sort of football event, maybe drumline, cheer, etc. Camas HS had to shut down due to an outbreak. The District’s COVID Dashboard is here.

Capital Projects Update: We are near the end of the construction phase of the High school. Choir, band and orchestra students are using classrooms in the PAC. The auditorium/theatre is not yet complete, so only Classrooms have temporary occupancy permitted. The Bus lot is still under construction and depending on the weather for asphalt paving. The school reader board sign is up and working. The space between the PAC and Gym has fencing like the rest of the campus. The school Fight Song has been etched into the breezeway concrete.

Director Fancher asked if music equipment had been provided. Each classroom has a piano and the Theatre Stage has a grand piano. Acoustic shells are on the stage. Drama Scene shop class equipment is on order and will be used for a CTE workshop. The Music department has a budget of 120,000 to refresh instruments and expand inventory. The practice rooms being used. Choir/Band/Orchestra Booster leaders were given a tour in February. They ‘have been very great supporters.’

Budget update: Revenue largely based on enrollment which affects facility capacity needs and staffing needs.

Fall 2021 enrollment projections are lower than had been expected pre-COVID but are expected to have some increase as schools can reopen and the public health situation improves. Most enrollments lost were in lower elementary grades.

Mount Si HS is projected to have 1768 students plus 34 at Two Rivers on campus. Will there be more Running Start students next year than usual?

There’s a $7.3 million budget shortfall due to enrollment and transportation losses. The State says schools are getting more federal money, so they shouldn’t provide more help. But Federal dollars aren’t distributed equally and aren’t going to cover our losses. ESSER funds are reimbursed after spending. The District is trying to get FEMA funds and is close to applying for that, but that doesn‘t fully cover losses. State Legislature Enrollment stabilization bills died, but there is still a desire to have some in the budget. We have a healthy fund balance but are restricted on what federal funds can be spent on.

Staffing: Some larger districts may be laying off staff (RIF’ing). We may rebound our enrollment, plus it will add anxiety to staff right now to discuss layoffs. The plan is to hold off on replacing and rehiring staff till after April. Per the union agreement, they have to notify staff of layoffs in May. OSPI/DOH knows that Districts need guidance in mid-April for Fall school planning.

Transportation: Pre-Covid, we had 50 drivers and now have 36 with no substitutes, so they still need many more new drivers to provide transportation for full-time school in the Fall.

Facilities: Based on enrollment projections, no additional new classroom capacity or portables will be needed this Fall.

The Board passed Resolution 863 – Emergency Waiver of High School Graduation Credits which refreshes the District’s authority to waive some graduation credit requirements this year.

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