After taking the first steps to reopening school buildings, the Edmonds School District is still working toward returning more students to in-person learning, the district’s superintendent says.
In a letter addressed to district families, Superintendent Gustavo Balderas updated families on plans to move into Stage 2 of the staff’s four-stage plan to reopen schools. Under Stage 1, 150 students enrolled in special education programs returned to in-person learning. In Stage 2, Balderas said more special education programs will be offered in-person.
Guidance from the Snohomish Health District and Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), strongly recommends that districts initiate in-person learning for the youngest learners and “those furthest from educational justice,” Balderas said.
“We are confident our health and safety protocols are working,” he said. “We are not seeing transmission in the school setting, which is consistent with the successful mitigating strategies school districts across the country are implementing.”
However, while some are prepared to return to classrooms, many parents are concerned it will disrupt learning during an already complicated school year. A top concern from families has been students not being able to keep the same teacher they began the school year with. According to Balderas, the district can’t guarantee students will remain with the same teacher. Parents voiced this and other concerns about re-entry during the Edmonds School Board of Directors’ Jan. 26 business meeting.
Much of the planning to move to Stage 2 relies on the ongoing negotiations between teachers’ union representatives and the district’s bargaining team. Due to the district’s contract bargaining terms, details about negotiations are unavailable while ongoing.
“Once we gather that information and determine the staffing needs for in-person and remote learning, families will be notified of their schedule and teacher,” Balderas said.
Read the full text of the letter below:
Dear Edmonds School District families,
We want to provide an update on the district’s work to launch Stage 2 of our Edmonds Schools Stages of Re-entry plan. Stage 2 offers in-person learning to our kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students and several more Special Education programs.
What needs to happen before the district can officially launch Stage 2?
First, the district and the Edmonds Education Association (our certificated employee union, which includes teachers) must come to an agreement on the working conditions for staff, including daily schedules for those who choose to attend in-person learning.
Next, the School Board must vote to officially approve the Stage 2 agreement between the district and the union. Then, the district will require all families of Stage 2 students to fill out a form for their student to indicate if they will attend in-person or stay fully remote.
Once we gather that information and determine the staffing needs for in-person and remote learning, families will be notified of their schedule and teacher.
Will my student keep their teacher?
The district cannot guarantee your student will keep their current teacher, regardless of whether your student or their teacher chooses fully remote or in-person learning. We understand the challenges this presents to students, families, and staff. While there are no guarantees of maintaining your student’s current teacher(s), efforts will be made to have the least amount of changes possible as we transition to more in-person services.
Why does the district want to offer in-person learning to our youngest learners?
The Snohomish Health District and Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) strongly recommend initiating in-person learning for our youngest learners and those furthest from educational justice.
Transmission rates and the decision-tree criteria established by the state indicate our district is within guidelines according to the Department of Health and the Snohomish Health District. All of our re-entry plans follow the strict guidance from state and local health officials.
We also acknowledge in-person learning is a state priority. Gov. Jay Inslee asked districts to start bringing students back earlier in December.
What about Stage 1, how is that going with students back in-person?
We are seeing great success for our students who are back to in-person learning. Students are learning, making progress, and actively engaging. We are currently serving approximately 150 students in-person with Stage 1 now fully implemented.The students we are serving in Stage 1 are predominantly students who receive the majority of their instruction in a Special Education setting. In Stage 2 more Special Education programs will be offered in-person.
We are confident our health and safety protocols are working. We are not seeing transmission in the school setting, which is consistent with the successful mitigating strategies school districts across the country are implementing.
Are schools ready to bring back students for in-person learning?
Yes. Each of our Stage 2 building leaders have completed their specific re-entry plan, which has been reviewed and approved by our health and facilities leadership teams.
What are the health and safety guidelines the district has in place for students and staff?
Safety has, and will continue to be, a top priority for everyone in our school buildings. Our protocols have been keeping our current staff and students safe since we started offering in-person learning in November. Please view our detailed COVID-19 safety plan for students and staff on our COVID Health/Safety webpage by clicking here.
Why can’t we wait for all staff to be vaccinated before more in-person learning happens?
We know that vaccines are here, and we are excited about the news that educators will be offered them earlier than we first expected. That said, the district feels strongly we should not delay our plan to return grades K-2 to school as soon as possible. We have the safety protocols in place and we are ready.
We know the decisions we make will affect each of you and your students. The district will continue to communicate with staff and families to provide updates when they are available.
There are many challenges facing our families and staff and I thank you for all you do to support learning while we work together to support our students.
Dr. Gustavo Balderas