After weeks of preparation, the Edmonds School District took its first cautious steps Monday toward returning to in-person learning by bringing 20 deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) and visually-impaired students to classrooms.
The week, the district kicked off its school reentry plan — a four-stage model to phase students back into classrooms — which prioritizes students in special education programs. The plan was presented by staff in September and aims to identify students who would benefit the most from in-person learning and bringing them back, followed by younger students and eventually students at all other grade levels. Plans to reopen are contingent on the advice from health professionals and other official guidance.
At the Edmonds School Board’s Nov. 10 business meeting, Assistant Superintendent Dana Geaslen briefed the board on staff’s plans to implement the first stage by reinstating the district’s DHH program and vision services program. According to Geaslen, staff are in no rush to bring students back unless it’s absolutely safe.
“We want to enter our buildings safely and we want to think of ways we can mitigate risk factors,” she said.
Geaslen said only K-6 students will return to in-person learning in these programs. As of now, the DHH program will serve 12 students at Madrona K-8 School in Edmonds while the visual services program will be housed at Hazelwood Elementary School in Lynnwood and serve eight students.
On Nov. 30, the district will begin offering intensive support classes at Maplewood Parent Cooperative in Edmonds and Brier Elementary School. After returning from winter break, students enrolled in developmental kindergarten will begin to attend in-person classes. Later in Stage 1, the district will continue to offer secondary special education programs, like Project SEARCH and intensive support services at Scriber Lake High School.
“We’re incredibly excited to have our students back on campus,” Geaslen said.
Also during the Nov. 10 meeting, board members were updated on plans to help students experiencing homelessness during remote learning. Originally, the district planned to provide support to its approximately 300 homeless students as part of Stage 2, but staff have since decided to include them in the soft rollout for Stage 1.
Executive Director Equity & Student Success Victor Vergara said the site would be an access point that offers Wi-Fi, meals and laundry service for homeless students during remote learning. According to Vergara, the site would be called “Edmonds Hub” (or, E-Hub) and located in the library of the former-Alderwood Middle School.
“The idea is for them to have the access (to) a warm place, access to internet where they can go for their classes,” he said.
Other plans for Stage 2 include bringing K-2 and some pre-K students back to in-person learning under the district’s hybrid learning model, which would split students into two groups and divide their time between the classroom and remote learning. As the plan progresses, more students will be brought back under the hybrid model.
Transportation services will also be available for students to and from E-Hub, and district spokesperson Harmony Weinberg said the district intends to rehire some of the 175 bus drivers laid off earlier this year. She added that the number of drivers who return will depend on the number of students who require access to E-Hub. Current plans for the site are to serve 20 to 25 students daily.
E-Hub will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The site is set to open to students Nov. 30.
In other business, the board received an update on the $2.3 million in CARES Act funding the district was awarded to cover costs incurred during its response to the pandemic.
The district applied for a federal grant to be reimbursed for the financial impacts of COVID-19. One thing the grant would pay for is the $153,000 in free child care the district provided for first responders and health care workers earlier this year, said Finance Director Lydia Sellie.
“With CARES (Act funds), you have to spend it and then you claim it for reimbursement — it’s not funded up front,” she said.
Due to a change from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Information (OSPI), Sellie said the district is also able to claim $1.5 million in unrealized enrollment. The rest of the grant will cover the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitization supplies and other necessary custodial supplies.
The district also applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for more than $600,000 to pay for cleaning supplies and overtime pay for custodial staff. If approved, Sellie said FEMA would cover 75% of the cost, which translates to roughly $47,000.
In other business, the board celebrated the 50 students whose artwork was selected to be featured in the Edmonds School District 2020-21 Student Artwork Calendar.
— By Cody Sexton