Along with a small number of schools in our region, Deer Park is one of the few districts throughout the state that offered an in-person learning opportunity at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. I’m immensely proud of our staff for the many ways they’ve worked hard throughout this school year to do offer in-person learning safely and successfully. Yet, even with that being true, it’s been a difficult year for everyone involved. While certainly complex and difficult for our staff, it’s also true that so much about this year has been an exceptional hardship for many families.
We’ve waited anxiously for infection rates to drop and for the vaccine to be widely distributed so that we might consider welcoming students back in a more normal school schedule – thankfully, both have occurred in recent weeks. Yet, the primary barrier has always been the 6ft physical distancing requirement, especially considering the space constraints we face in many of our buildings.
Late last week we received exciting news from the Washington State Dept. of Health and our Governor. The 6ft physical distancing requirement was reduced to 3ft for school children. This change is a welcome (and necessary) step in the right direction as we work toward getting children back in our classrooms every day. While this shift in guidance from our State’s Health Dept. provides a path forward, there are elements to this new guidance that will require careful thought and attention. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make necessary changes, discussing potential impacts and operational adjustments.
Our goal is to return to a 5-day a week schedule the week of Monday, April 19. Should unforeseen issues or roadblocks arise, we can easily fall back to April 26, but short of some significant change in guidance or circumstances, our work is focused on returning to a regular school schedule on April 19. Moving to 5 days each week for the remainder of this year will not only have immediate benefits for our students, but also allows us to put processes and procedures in place that will enable students and staff to “re-calibrate” and prepare for a successful start to the 2021-22 school year.
Students at DPHS who have been engaged in a full-online experience via the Edgenuity online platform will complete the year in that model. Elementary and middle school families/students who have been successful with online learning will be strongly encouraged to remain in the fully remote model for the remainder of the school year.
It’s important to note that while distancing requirements have been relaxed, face coverings are still required by the Dept. of Health. It will be especially important to maintain our commitment to face coverings as the physical distancing amongst students is reduced. We must also continue to have the help of families, who must continue to be especially vigilant in keeping children home when they’re not feeling well. Finally, since early March, DPSD has offered COVID testing services to the community – families can access this free service by calling 464-5501.
We understand the impact the pandemic has had on families and kids and greatly appreciate your support throughout this school year. We look forward to the expansion of in-person service; please stay tuned for additional details over the next couple weeks as we prepare return to a full-time schedule on April 19.
For our children,
Travis W. Hanson || Superintendent