Highlights of the SVSD School Board Work Session Meeting May 4, 2021

Summary: No Expansion or Changes Expected to In-person School Schedules until Fall 2021

[Guest Post by Linda Grez]

The Work Session topic was the District’s Return to School Update, a presentation and discussion format exploring how schools could increase in-person learning.  There were no specific motions or action items to be voted on, nor any public comment.  Dr. Manahan began by playing a very moving and beautiful video performance by Fall City Elementary Choir, led by teacher Ms. Schultz. 

Dr. Manahan began by recognizing all the District staff in every department who have faced great challenges to reopen schools in compliance with health rules.  A timeline showed the steps taken to return to in-person school in the current model. 

The WA Department of Health parameters still require physical distancing ≥ three feet between students within groups and in classrooms, as much as possible, adults ≥ six feet of physical distance from other staff and students in classrooms and elsewhere, at least six feet of distance must be maintained for the following circumstances: a. Between staff in the school buildings and between adults and students. b. For all staff and students in common areas, such as auditoriums. c. When masks can’t be worn, such as when eating. d. During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, or physical education. These activities should be moved outdoors or too large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.

In regions with high community transmission, CDC and DOH recommend that middle and high school students use cohorting (grouping students across all classes and activities) and at least three feet of distance between students, or at least six feet of physical distance between students if cohorting is not possible.  Elementary school students are mostly cohorted, but Middle and High School students take different classes and are intermixed.   DOH defines high community transmission as a COVID-19 case rate of greater than 200 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days or hospitalization greater than 5%.  In King County today, transmission is over 200 cases per 100,000.

Operational constraints were reviewed: Transportation – can’t fit all the kids in existing bus routes with required 2 to a seat (3 to a seat is not allowed).  Cleaning/sanitizing at lunch is required.  Much classroom furniture we have can’t keep students from being too close with shared desks. Increased food service and bus driver staffing will be required, and changes to staff working conditions must involve union agreement.  Health services staff is inadequate to do regular work plus conduct contact tracing and communicate to DOH. 

Assistant Superintendent Ginger Callison presented Secondary school options required to implement typical school schedule start/dismissal times for students, add a lunch at each secondary school, AND implement one of the following options: 1. Seat students who exceed the class size limit each period in the Commons. 2. Remove tables/desks and seat students in chairs. 3. Reschedule all students and staff. 4. Dismantle the 100% remote option for middle school students, reschedule all. 5. Implement a half-day schedule for secondary, with Group A attending in the morning and Group B attending in the afternoon.

Option #1: Seat students who exceed the class size limit in the Commons.  The number of students who would be relocated to an alternative space: CKMS Daily total: 215, SMS Daily total: 285, TFMS Daily total: 365, MSHS Daily total: 181.  A range of 17-86 students per class period in each school would have to alternate between classrooms and taking turns sitting remotely.

Option #2: Remove desks/tables and seat students in chairs with laptops and any other materials in their laps. 

Option #3: Reschedule all students and staff to reduce class size.   Rebuild building master schedule for courses and student course schedules and have all teachers teach all 6 (middle schools) or 7 (high school) class periods.  Many students would have new teachers and classmates – in potentially all classes.  Students might not be able to continue in their enrolled classes.  Teachers may teach new classes and groups of students, may be assigned to classes they haven’t taught before.  No planning period for teachers – Approximate cost of $360,000 for lost planning. Add the cost of teacher overloads (approximately $145,920).  Grades transferred to new teacher grade books by hand (inaccuracies, extra hours for staff to transfer them).  Would need to pause school for 2-3 weeks to rebuild schedules – add time to the end of the school year.  Other concerns – CEDARS reporting impact, potential audit with findings, problems with 3rd party synced applications (i.e., ClassLink, Schoology), Civil Rights Data Collection year, unsure if the system would allow us to reschedule since the semester already started, potential significant loss of data.  The benefit of lower resulting average class sizes: TFMS 23, SMS 22, CKMS 22, MSHS 21.  Not recommended.

Option #4: Dismantle 100% remote middle school program; reschedule all students and staff Complexities are the same as those outlined for Option 3. Not recommended.

Other Secondary logistical challenges and SVSD solutions include additional exposure and quarantine risk due to doubling the number of students within 6’ of each other – secondary schools could quarantine 48+ students during student-to-student exposures, as compared to 24+ students currently (estimate).  Must maintain 6’ distancing when performing in music – Music would hold class outside, or not perform if inside.  Some classes need to be longer for lunch, arrival, dismissal (1st, 4th, 6th), unbalancing class lengths and planning periods – could work with teachers to determine what to do with students during 4th period (much longer than other classes) and work with teachers to balance responsibilities as planning period times would be uneven.   Would need to reach agreements with unions on necessary changes.

The board asked why are other districts have been able to have more in-person school.  The District can’t say exactly how others are doing it but does know we are following the DOH guidelines. What some other districts call full day is really not much longer than our elementary partial days.  Lake Washington School District said they have individual desks, not shared, so furniture is not an obstacle for them. 

The District tried to honor schedule requests in the Fall which results in a huge challenge now to reschedule everyone.  Board members commented that they want kids in 4 days a week but it will be so disruptive and require too many compromises to learning.  Remote days not ideal, but can they be made more enjoyable?

Elementary – to change to 4 full days a week

Assistant Superintendent Dan Schlotfeldt presented the Elementary analysis.  Many Elementary Students would need to change Teachers due to remote/in-person staffing changes:  508 students would be affected.  The schools range from 34 to 207 students changing teachers per school.  This would be very disruptive.

WIN Reading Support would be reduced: Current total # Students Served (scoring 40th percentile) is 564.  The reduced Total # Students Served (scoring at 24th percentile) would be 335. 

Elementary students receiving Special Education Services would require new schedules for Resource Services, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy.  Two Special Education teachers would be required for remote only students.  Special Education teacher changes would be required for remote and in person students. 

Fall 2021 Planning

The District can plan to overcome the current challenges for Fall 2021 in the intervening time with staff hiring and class assignments to reduce class sizes.  Health Room support can be planned for additional COVID Duties and supporting full time student needs.  Custodial staff can provide additional support.   Paraeducators can be used for additional academic and supervisory support.  Procurement planning can obtain different furniture. 

By Fall it is expected there will be improved Pandemic outcomes, lower community transmission rates, and higher Vaccination rates for students and staff.  DOH requirements and recommendations should be set for distancing rules for lunch and classrooms.

The data presented shows what changes would be required to get kids back in person more. The Directors all agreed that even the best options are not better than what we currently have and would be very disruptive to many students’ learning and connection to their current teachers and classes.

The presentation will not be fully reviewed at this Thursday’s May 6th Board meeting because it is available in the Agenda and the video recording will be available for the community to see and hear. 

Adjourned at 7:12 pm.

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