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Snohomish Schools’ fall re-opening plan forming

SNOHOMISH — As multiple western Washington school districts adopt 100 percent online learning for the fall of 2020, the Snohomish School District has released three options for re-opening which were presented at last week’s school board meeting.
The district sent out a survey on July 23 of the proposed options to all district families, including faculty. The point of the survey was to get an idea of what options families believe would best suit their children, so the district will be able to prepare for the logistics.
Although the options were presented in the meeting, the full details of each option will continue to come out over the coming weeks. 
When school starts, parents of students can choose whichever plan they see as the best fit for their children. 
According to Superintendent Kent Kultgen, the district wants to emphasize that this fall will not be comparable to last spring. The goal and priority of the district is having a robust learning environment for the student in whatever option chosen, Kultgen said.
The final decision and schedule will be released on Aug. 12.
The first and favored option by the district is called the hybrid option. Students participating will be split into two groups, group A and group B, determined by alphabetical order of last name. Kultgen ensured this was to keep families together on the same days. Students would attend school in an A, B, A, B, and every other Friday, schedule. It means that only half the students are on campus at once, allowing for social distancing. The days that students are not on campus they will be doing their school work from home.
Another option available is the Parent Partnership Program. This program currently exists and allows parents to be involved with the education of their children with the opportunity to use school resources.
The final option is 100 percent online learning. According to Kultgen, the “do no harm” approach to how students were graded from last spring will not be the case. Because the district is also preparing for schools to be closed by the state, completion of the online learning program is the number one priority. The full details of how the online learning
program will operate have yet to be worked out, but Kultgen said the students will have a “robust learning environment.” He also stated the new program will be much easier to operate and students will have an opportunity for live instruction and support every day, meaning students and parents will be able to communicate with teachers much easier.
Another online learning option is called Apex. This program is for students to learn at their own pace much like an online college course.  
Not all school board members feel the same way regarding the re-opening.
Shaunna Ballas expressed concern about waiting until Aug.12, to inform families of the district’s plan. She said parents, students and teachers will need more time to prepare for the change, and in her opinion, the district should dedicate to online and put all efforts into the online learning program.
Kultgen stated the district is putting all their efforts into online learning because that is the option students and teachers are the least familiar with and could be the only option available should the state close the schools.
The Washington Education Association (WEA), the statewide teachers union, said last week it is calling for distance learning. “We are sadly faced with a choice between two bad options ­— either return to schools and put our educators, students, and community at risk or return to a distance learning and virtual instruction model,” the WEA wrote online. The WEA stated they are aware in-person learning is best for students, but health and safety are a priority. “Therefore, we cannot responsibly support a return to school buildings for in-person learning this fall.  We are calling for the 2020-21 school year to begin with distance learning and virtual instruction. ” 
The WEA believes that between now and the first day of school, time and efforts should be used to prepare educators for online learning rather than planning for a hybrid, in-person model. 
“Making this decision now will give school districts and educators time to prepare and focus on a singular model of instruction and to better prepare for the challenges that a distance learning model will bring,” the WEA said.
Many members of the community expressed concern via public comment. They brought up that other districts, such as Seattle, have already dedicated next fall to be 100 percent online. 
With over 200 participants in the Zoom meeting, public comment was submitted through the chat feature. 
Kultgen emphasized that many of the finer details were still being worked out, and in the meeting he answered many questions from the community with responses such as, “contact me and I will get back to you on that” or “that is something we are currently working to find out” 
Community members also displayed their confusion with the point of the survey if the full scope of each option has yet to be finalized. 
As a result of the confusion, Kultgen mentioned that more surveys will come as more information becomes available. The district wants the community to be involved with the re-opening process and encourages the public to give their feedback via surveys. Families will be emailed the surveys and additional information.
Input forms and more information, including FAQ sheet, regarding the 2020-2021 re-opening plan can be found on the district website: sno.wednet.edu
Questions, comments and concerns can be emailed to reopening@sno.wednet.edu

 

  

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