At their meeting on Monday evening (August 10), Deer Park’s Board of Directors approved a plan for reopening schools in the 2020-21 school year.
In recent weeks district leadership and the board have worked diligently to gather feedback from a variety of stakeholders (staff and community), engaged in considerable research, and shared many administrative and board discussions contemplating how to create the best possible educational experience for kids and families amidst the challenging circumstances presented by the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve also continued to work collaboratively with our neighboring school districts, as well as with guidance from regional and state health and education agencies in the process of constructing the best possible plan to serve the Deer Park community.
Our reopening plan, and every element it considers, endeavors to strike the right balance between public health (attending to pandemic-related concerns) and public welfare (attending to the social, emotional, educational and familial needs of everyone involved).
As you’ll see in the detailed plan below, we’re providing families with two learning options to choose from this fall:
- In-Person learning delivered in a split/rotating schedule in which students will be divided into two groups (Blue & Gold), attending school two days one week and three days the next.
- Days when students are not attending in-person are still considered school days and each school will clearly communicate learning expectations and structures for instructional support.
- Students in need of additional in-person service (i.e. – students with disabilities) may have the ability to attend on a more normal four or five-day schedule.
- Remote/distance learning delivered in a fully online model, using Deer Park teachers dedicated to providing a robust and engaging learning experience for students using proven remote learning tools. We are calling this our STAGS @Home program.
- The fully online experience will offer teacher-led online experiences and activities, as well as opportunities for more autonomous learning structures that allow students to access and complete assignments/tasks on a more flexible schedule.
With the understanding that our Governor, the State Dept. of Health, and the regional health jurisdictions left final decisions about the scope of educational services up to local school boards, and with significant feedback from our families and staff regarding the need for in-person options, Deer Park’s board is in unanimous agreement that an in-person option along with fully-remote educational services presents our school district with the best opportunity to serve the greatest number of families in our community.
Nevertheless, attending to safety and health are a critical consideration moving forward, and we must not just expect, but demand and enforce strict adherence to PPE (masks/shields) and daily health screening requirements while simultaneously creating a school setting and daily protocols that help maintain six-foot physical distancing to the extent possible. As it will be in most schools that choose to offer opportunities for in-person instruction, distancing requirements will necessitate that we have fewer students in each of our classrooms; in fact, this was the primary driver behind the more cautious and measured approach of implementing the split schedule in all grades K-12.
The plan approved by the Board of Directors details the what of reopening and a great deal of the why behind the recommendation, but at this time only touches on a few elements of the how. As it pertains to safety and health requirements, cleaning expectations, and response to COVID-concern and COVID-exposure, guidance our plan references from Washington’s State Dept. of Health is not simply helpful, it is necessary and provides the foundation of our plan to have students and staff back in our buildings.
What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms but have not been around anyone diagnosed with COVID-19: COVID Concerned
What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 : COVID Exposed
As it pertains to our educational options for students, we are working diligently to construct meaningful, rigorous, and engaging options to effectively serve students learning remotely. For our K-5 students, we are dedicating at least one teacher per grade level to supporting our STAGS @Home program; additional instructional support and staffing will be provided as numbers dictate that need.
At the elementary level, we’ve compiled a set of resources and materials to be used (in various ways and at different developmental levels) in building-out our learning platform. That set of resources and tools is available using the following link: K-8 Learning Resources & Materials
Additionally, along with provision of/access to quality learning materials and resources, we are building clear expectations around the daily and weekly experience for students learning at a distance. We’ve appreciated the partnership of our regional educational partners and the ways their work and our collaboration with them has supported our planning. Drafts of elementary (K-6) daily and weekly schedules are available using the following links: K-6 Daily Guide || K-6 Weekly Guide
As you might imagine, solutions at the secondary level (7-12) – where kids have generally attend six periods each day and are taught by content specialists – are significantly more complex. Our approach (content delivery platform/model) must attend to accreditation requirements, credit requirements that meet statutory definitions defined by the Washington State Board of Education, and must also allow teachers to work within their endorsement areas. We are well along the way in our solutions for providing a great experience for secondary students and will have information to share by the end of this week.
Your support and your partnership are vital and appreciated. We’re receiving and considering all your questions, concerns, and feedback and look forward to offering opportunities for ongoing communication and frequent release of information about the upcoming school year. There is much work to be done and a great deal to attend to in the weeks to come and we’re thrilled to be empowering families with choices for their children. We look forward to working with you and serving your family’s educational needs in the school year ahead!