Edmonds School District approves new CTE program, reviews plans for COVID-19 response

Mountlake Terrace High School senior Ritika Khanal (bottom right) praises the Edmonds School District’s career and technical education program at the Edmonds School Board’s Sept. 14 meeting.

The Edmonds School District Board of Directors has adopted a new plan aimed at addressing inequities in the district’s career and technical education (CTE) program.

The CTE program provides opportunities for high school students to explore interests, discover career opportunities, earn college credit, and develop meaningful and relevant programs of study that lead to success in high school and beyond. CTE courses can also be used to meet graduation requirements for art, English, health, math and science.

At its Sept. 14 business meeting, the board approved a new four-year plan that includes ensuring students at each high school have equal access to the same courses and expanding the program to be offered at middle schools. Prior to the vote, district staff also briefed the board on how the program handled a remote learning setting during the 2020-21 school year.

Each year, staff updates the district’s CTE program after reviewing data from the previous year to identify areas of improvement. Last year, the district piloted a CTE computer science course at Alderwood Middle School, which had 90 students. This year, staff are planning to expand to other middle schools starting with College Place Middle School. Staff has also approached Lynnwood High School about offering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Pathway that would be similar to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program offered at Mountlake Terrace High School.

When the district switched to remote learning during the 2020-21 school year at the advice of public health officials, the program saw fewer student enrollments. Still, more than 580 students qualified for graduation in 2021 after taking CTE courses while in high school. 

Though last year saw a reduction in the number of CTE clubs and organizations, several — like Meadowdale High School’s automotive performance club — remained successful. 

At this year’s SkillsUSA, the district took the top four places for the automotive service technology competition. This was the second consecutive year that participants in the school district’s program took home all four top spots in the region.

“Given the circumstances we were dealing with, I think it’s even more tremendous an achievement,” said CTE Director Mark Madison.

While school buildings were closed to in-person learning, the district was able to update several of the CTE program’s facilities, equipment and technology. At Mountlake Terrace High School, renovations were made to the STEM, carpentry and journalism labs. Upgrades were also made to the culinary labs at Edmonds-Woodway, Lynnwood, Meadowdale and Mountlake Terrace high schools as well as to some student stores. 

The CTE dual credit program — which allows high school students to earn college credit through a partnership with Edmonds College — had a near 50% reduction in enrollment with only 261 students. Madison said many of the reductions were due to courses requiring in-person performance assessments, but staff anticipates enrollment rising this year. In addition, 92 students received industry-recognized certifications through the program.

Madison also briefed the board on the district’s T-Mobile high school internship program. The Full Stack Web Developer Internship is a two-year commitment for high school juniors that offers a paid internship during the summer after their junior and senior years. During their senior year, students can earn a web development certificate through Edmonds College. As a result, after they complete their second internship, they are eligible for direct entry into the full stack development field.

The first cohort included seven students who just completed their second summer internship and there are 10 in the second group, which completed a virtual internship this summer. The program began in the Edmonds School District and has expanded to the Seattle School District and schools in Kansas.

“This is a really special program to us because it’s the first in the nation with T-Mobile in terms of a high school paid internship program,” Madison said.

During the CTE review process, staff discussed making sure each school offered the same courses, so students had equal access to what the program had to offer. However, Madison added that issues regarding staffing and demand need to be addressed before they can offer all courses at each school.

One example of an inequity issue is Scriber Lake High School, which is smaller than other district high schools, making it difficult to offer the same number of CTE courses, Madison said.

During the discussion following Madison’s presentation, Mountlake Terrace High School senior Ritika Khanal — who serves as a student advisor to the board of directors — praised the CTE program. Khanal serves on her school’s student newspaper, The Hawkeye, and said she appreciates being able to see her education translate into real-world work.

“There’s not a day that I don’t leave the Mountlake Terrace Hawkeye thinking ‘Wow this is…the kind of thing that is genuinely teaching me about how it can be going forward,’” she said.

In other business, the board delayed voting on a contract with four professionals who would be dedicated to helping students with substance abuse issues.

In partnership with the Northwest Educational Service District 189, the board is considering the hiring of four student assistance professionals (SAPs). The new employees would work with middle and high school students who are dealing with drug and alcohol use and would also provide support groups for students. Each SAP would provide support to a middle school and a high school in each quadrant as well as Scriber Lake High School and eLearning. They would also be available for classroom presentations on topics related to substance use and abuse.

The contract would be funded by a grant from NESD 189 and funds previously used to pay for the school resource officer program. However, Director Katims said she was concerned about language in the contract that favored NESD 189, including a clause that allowed NESD 189 to cancel the contract at any time. The item was tabled for a future meeting.

Also during the meeting, staff addressed questions from community members regarding the district’s response in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 exposure at school. During the meeting’s public comments, a parent asked why the policy is the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

Mara Marano-Bianco, the district’s student health services manager, explained that students or staff who exhibit symptoms of the virus are isolated in a designated containment area. While isolating, the symptomatic person is offered a COVID-19 test with their consent. Test results typically take between one to three days and the patient has to quarantine at home while waiting for the results.

If the result is positive, Marano-Bianco said the patient has to self-isolate at home for 14 days and/or 24 hours after symptoms have improved. They may return to school with proof of a negative COVID-19 test result and after being fever free for 24 hours. The same procedure is required for anyone who refuses to take a test. 

“We have seen some cases where people do test positive, however their fever may continue beyond the (14 days) of required isolation so that is one of the caveats why someone has to be 24 hours fever free and symptoms are improving to return to school,” Marano-Bianco said.

Marano-Bianco also explained contact tracing when coming into contact with a positive case. “Close contact” refers to anyone who was within 6 feet of a confirmed case for 15 cumulative minutes or more throughout the day. In classrooms, if students are sitting closer than 6 feet apart, additional precautions — like increased ventilation and testing programs — must be in place for the following to apply:

  • if two people are closer than 3 feet apart and one person is positive while both people are masked, both are required to quarantine.
  • if two people — one positive — are within 6 feet of each other and only one person is masked, both must quarantine.
  • if both people are masked and only one person is vaccinated, that person is required to monitor for symptoms for three to five days after the exposure. Quarantine is only required for the vaccinated person if they exhibit symptoms.

The district has encouraged families to refer to the graphic below:  

(Image from the Snohomish Health District)

Also during public comments, one parent suggested the board consider moving lunch times outdoors to prevent the spread of the virus. She said it was unfair that her daughter — who is not eligible for the vaccine — and other students be put at risk during mealtimes, which she said occurs in the classroom.

“It’s unreasonable to ask any unvaccinated child to do this,” she said. “They have already sacrificed too much for a year and a half to ask them to do this in order to go to school.”

During public comments, the board also heard multiple requests from the district’s paraeducators for the same additional compensation that certified teachers receive for teaching during the pandemic. Paraeducator Kelley Reeves said they deserved the same $1,250 compensation as certified teachers and pointed out that many of them remained on site to teach in person while certified faculty taught remotely.

 “No, we are not certified teachers and we do not take away from the hours they put in but remember we too experience the stress of completely relearning how to do our jobs in only a few days and alongside our teachers we are exposed daily to potential debilitating and sometimes fatal disease,” Reeves said.

–By Cody Sexton

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