Thanks for your ongoing support and patience as we continue the work of navigating the challenges introduced by this pandemic. As you read this update, we’re beginning Spring Break, what is usually a highly anticipated break before the annual stress of state testing kicks in – unfortunately, as I write this, I must say that state tests are the least of our worries.
For the vast majority of educators (well, for the vast majority of all of us!), these are uncharted waters. School is what educators do every day and we’re always looking for ways to grow and improve, but figuring out the best way to connect with and serve 2500 kids in the midst of a global pandemic has been, well…really challenging. An article I read recently said it this way: “What is happening is not homeschooling. It is not distance learning. It is not online schooling. This is COVID-19 schooling; or better yet, Teaching and Learning in the world of COVID-19.” Fact is, this is anything but business as usual and we cannot treat it as such.
Where We’ve Been:
Over the last few weeks, building principals have used website updates, emails, and SchoolMessenger calls (Deer Park’s robocalling application) to provide regular updates to parents and guardians. Additionally, teachers have been using a variety of tools to connect with students and are meeting regularly in online environments to discuss the best ways to address the needs of as many kids as possible. Teachers are using digital resources to provide learning materials to kids and have also developed paper packets to meet the needs of students that don’t have Internet access and/or a computer. For the first few weeks of this closure, emphasis has been on material that reconnects students with prior learning as well as providing opportunities for enrichment.
Last week, Deer Park kicked-off the “Chrome @Home” program – this device checkout program allows families with wireless Internet in their home to check out a school district Chromebook during the closure. These devices will provide students with one more tool to help them connect regularly with their teacher(s) and will also allow access to online educational resources – including many of the tools and applications students use in their classroom on a daily basis. Questions? Click here or call the district office (464.5500) between the hours of 8:00am and 1:00pm for more information about Chromebook checkout.
Preparing for What’s Next:
By now, you’re probably aware that Governor Inslee has closed school for the remainder of this academic year. But, let me be clear, this announcement is not a call for schools to relax. In fact, with 10 weeks still remaining in our instructional calendar, the Governor’s order only ramps-up our need to find creative ways to establish meaningful connections with kids and increases present expectations for student learning. Let me revisit what I shared earlier: As we do our best to adapt to this new educational experience for the remainder of the school year, we know that it will not simply be a quick transition to traditional homeschooling, and whatever we do cannot rely exclusively on what we’ve come to know as distance learning and/or online schooling; there are too many K-12 students cast aside in that model – and that’s just not acceptable. In the midst of this global pandemic teaching and learning will look different. We’ll need to be creative and flexible, and all of us – teachers, paraeducators, counselors, students, parents, guardians – will need to be committed to making new models of learning work.
We’ve got more information coming about new approaches to teaching and learning and exciting new educational opportunities in the days ahead…stay tuned!
- Food Service
- Free meals continue to be available to ALL children in the community throughout the statewide school closure. The “grab and go” meals being prepared will include both breakfast food and a lunch meal in one sack. Food is provided at no cost to ALL children. We’ve set up remote meal distribution sites, you can find those distribution locations on the district website (www.dpsd.org) or you can call the main office for more information (464.5500).
- Child Care
- Like every other school system in the state, and by order of our Governor, we’ve set up a childcare program for first responders and healthcare workers. We know these people are on the front lines of our response to this pandemic and we’re pleased to provide childcare support so they can attend to their important work. More details (along with a sign-up form) are available at the district website or by calling the school district office.
- Graduation and the Class of 2020
- High school seniors who were progressing toward receiving a diploma will receive that diploma. Teachers and guidance counselors will provide opportunities to earn and document credits students need for post-secondary transitions. We are working with the state’s college system to ensure smooth transitions.
- We will be working on alternative plans related to a graduation ceremony to recognize this important accomplishment for our students.
- Washington’s State Board of Education meets on Wednesday, April 8th, to deliberate and hopefully pass revisions to state graduation rules. Mr. Feist (DPHS) and Mrs. Murphy (DP Home Link) will be paying close attention to these proceedings and will work with guidance counselors and staff to ensure all seniors have the information and coursework they need to receive their diploma.
- Public WiFi
- We now have two publicly accessible wireless hotspots available for all to use. When in the parking lot of Arcadia Elementary or in the north parking lot of the Deer Park Home Link/District Office building, you can join the DPSD_Public SSID and connect without a password. We hope this helps students connect with teachers and get access to learning materials, while also helping families that need occasional drop-in access to the Internet.
Given the statewide closure of all schools for the remainder of this school year, Deer Park’s school buildings will remain closed to ALL drop-in access. As has been the case from the beginning of the statewide closure, access to interior spaces is only an option for those with an invitation or with approval from a building or district leader in order to accomplish district business. The only exception will be related to distribution of paper packets or access to physical learning materials for students as we proceed with learning in the days and weeks ahead.
I want to wrap up with a parting thought on behalf of every adult in our system – WE MISS YOUR CHILDREN! Those of us working in schools get to do the most amazing work in the world. As parents, you know (perhaps now more than ever!) how hard raising and educating kids can be; that said, we also know the work is so incredibly rewarding. We feel so fortunate to be a part of the lives of your children and to have the opportunity to help them learn and grow. We look forward to the day when they are back in our schools and classrooms. We’ll get through this difficult time and we’ll do it together!
With Sincerity and Gratitude,
Travis W. Hanson