In a letter dated September 18, 2020 Superintendent Rob Manahan had this to say to Snoqualmie Valley families and staff:
Thanks to all of our students, staff, and parents for a successful start to the school year, despite these unusual circumstances. We are grateful for your dedication, effort and resilience as we all have worked to embrace new schedules and technology needed to begin the school year fully remote in our Distance Learning 2.0 model.
Our district also continues to work with public health officials to monitor health conditions and key indicators for returning to school in person. Over the last week, we are pleased to report that the number of COVID cases in King County have declined. The decrease in transmission rates has moved King County schools from a “high” activity rating to a “moderate” level, as defined by the Decision Tree for K-12 In Person Learning resource from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
This means schools may consider a gradual phased-in approach to re-opening for in-person services for some students, if COVID transmission rates remain flat or decrease further.
With these encouraging developments, our district has begun planning for some Snoqualmie Valley School District students to return to school in-person as early as mid-October, if King County continues to meet COVID-19 targets set by the Public Health of Seattle & King County and the state Department of Health. Guidance for reopening schools supports a phased approach, starting with students for whom learning online is most challenging, such as students with special learning needs and our youngest learners.
Planning for the next phase will involve a hybrid learning model, in which students may learn some days at school and some days at home. This is a complex planning process, with several key considerations in the coming weeks. We first need to confirm with our elementary families the number of students who want to return to in-person learning and the number of staff available to teach in an in-person model. (On Monday afternoon, an Elementary Learning Model Selection Form will be posted in Skyward Family Access for the primary parent/guardian of enrolled elementary students — Preschool through 5th grade — to verify their choice through the 2nd trimester, March 12. We will send E-News when this is available.) We must also implement all COVID-19 mitigation requirements including wearing face coverings, increased handwashing, physical distancing, symptom checks and health attestations, contact tracing, and recommended cleaning and disinfecting of buildings and buses. Additionally, we will be working with our employee associations to address staff concerns, provide training, and implement the new safety protocols.
Depending on how many elementary families choose to continue with 100% remote learning, the schedule for our hybrid model may look like this:
- Regarding Special Education: This week, we began serving some students receiving special education services in person in our school buildings, on a case-by-case basis. We also partnered with community providers to implement some in home and at school Specially Designed Instruction and therapies. Next week, pending healthy air quality conditions, our Transition Learning Center students will return to a hybrid, outdoor model. We will also start in person testing by school psychologists and therapists by appointment in collaboration with families. In addition, we will be working with staff and families of students in specialty classrooms at TRES and NBES, to hopefully bring students back to school before October 19.
- No sooner than October 19: If numbers allow for proper social distancing, we hope to serve our youngest students in preschool, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades through in-person learning four full school days a week (M, T, Th, F). Details regarding Wednesday will be shared will be confirmed later.
NOTE: If student numbers (of those choosing the in-person learning) exceed our ability to properly socially distance, students in the Kindergarten, First, and/or Second grade may need to return to in-person learning at least two days a week – in a Hybrid A/B Rotation model. Group A would attend in person Monday and Thursday, while Group B would attend in person Tuesday and Friday. Students would spend the other days learning from home, with plans for Wednesday still to be confirmed. We will know more about what is possible, once we assess the results of the Elementary Selection Form.
- No sooner than November 9: If COVID-19 transmission rates hold steady or improve and Selection Form numbers allow for proper social distancing, elementary students in grades 3-5 would return to in-person in the Hybrid A/B Rotation model (described above). The timing allows three weeks to confirm low transmission rates, per Public Health guidance.
- Middle and High School students: In considering the return of our middle and high school students, WSDOH Decision Treeguidance suggests the rate of COVID-19 should be below 25 cases per 100,000 before returning to in-person instruction. (We are currently at 55 cases/100,000.) At that level, districts are encouraged to provide some form of hybrid learning for middle and high school students and, over time and if physical space allows, consider full-time in-person instruction. When this time comes, we plan to phase in grades 6-8, then grades 9-12, to return to in-person in the Hybrid A/B Rotation model.
Given the uncertainties of the pandemic, our district will continue to offer a 100% Remote Learning model for all grade levels, for families who do not want to send their children to school in person.
We’ll continue to provide updates on moving to the hybrid model. If COVID case numbers change, it will impact our decision to open. We will continue to follow the protocols for monitoring community virus outbreaks. (You can find Public Health updates here: Key indicators of COVID-19 activity in King County.)
Why will students in grades 3-12 return to school in a hybrid model? Health and safety requirements mandate schools to maintain six feet of social distancing in classrooms. While the physical size of classrooms varies from school to school, classrooms are not large enough to accommodate all students six feet apart at the same time. By bringing students back in cohorts (that we’re calling Group A or Group B) fewer students will be on campus. Each teacher in grades 3-12 will see half of their students in person on Monday and Thursday, and the other half on Tuesday and Friday, with Wednesday’s schedule still to be determined.
Why can students in preschool through 2nd grade come back four days a week? This plan follows the K-12 Decision Tree guidance from state health officials. “DOH favors a cautious, phased-in approach to resuming in-person instruction that starts with staff, small groups of our youngest learners, and students who are unable to learn or receive critical services asynchronously. Over time, schools can add additional students to in-person models. In-person learning should be prioritized for elementary school students because they may be less likely to spread COVID-19 than older children, have more difficulty learning asynchronously, and may otherwise need to be in a childcare setting if their parent(s) work.”
How will the District know what learning model a family chooses?
- Elementary families (P-5): An Elementary Learning Model Selection Form will be available to parents/guardians of all preschool and K-5 students in Skyward Family Access, starting Monday afternoon, September 21. Families will be asked if they want to continue with 100% remote learning or if they want their student to return to school in-person on a hybrid model. Responses will apply through the second trimester (which ends March 12) for elementary schools. The selection form will close Friday, September 25. The default for families who do not complete the survey for each of their elementary students will be the hybrid model.
- Secondary families (6-12): Family requests made through the last survey for either hybrid or remote only were already factored into scheduling at the beginning of the year, so we will not be administering another survey for grades 6-12. Selections from the original survey apply through the first semester (which ends January 22) for grades 6-12. Given the complexities of secondary scheduling and to minimize disruption, we will continue to support students’ current schedules, when schools re-open for in-person learning on the hybrid model.
Will elementary students be able to keep their same teachers when we transition to hybrid learning? This will depend on the results of the Elementary Learning Model Selection Form, and we will make every effort to retain current student-teacher connections. As we work to update schedules to reflect family choices, we must also balance class sizes and take into consideration health issues of some staff members. It is possible that teacher assignments may change when hybrid learning begins, regardless of whether a family chooses hybrid or remote only. Again, we will work to minimize changes.
What if I withdrew my elementary student, but would now like them to return for hybrid learning? If your student is no longer enrolled in the Snoqualmie Valley School District and you would like to return when in-person learning for your elementary student begins, we will post an Alternative Elementary Selection Form on the district website. Check back here on Monday afternoon, September 21, for the link, and complete it by September 25 at 5 p.m. You will also need to enroll your student in the district.
Click here for additional Questions & Answers related to in-person/hybrid learning at our elementary schools.
As our Public Health partners explain on their article: Schools Preparing for a Measured Return to In-Person Learning… “In-person learning is crucial for students to thrive. Returning to the classrooms still has risk, and schools, families and communities can work together to reduce that risk. There is so much we don’t know about how this school year will unfold. Returning to in-classroom education will require all of us to keep rates of community spread as low as possible by committing to health practices, including physical distancing, wearing masks, and keeping gatherings small. Together all of us – caregivers, students, school staff and community partners – can be an active part of keeping everyone healthy and learning together.”
We appreciate the community-wide effort that has helped to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and allow us to begin this important planning for a return to in-school learning. And again, thank you for your flexibility, patience, and kindness as we work through these unprecedented and challenging times.
Superintendent Rob Manahan