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Schools will start the year with distance learning | Superintendent's Corner

 

Last updated 8/12/2020 at 6:15pm



This August looks and feels different than most. Instead of staff preparing their classrooms and schools for the surge of children on the first day, hallways are quiet as they prepare lessons from home.

As the roughly 15,000 students and over 2,000 staff in the Mukilteo School District prepare to begin the year with a distance learning model, it will be the first time in my career (and in many others’ careers) without a traditional first day of school.

It could be easy to let the weight of that get us down. I am sure many students were looking forward to resuming a sense of normalcy by attending at least some in-person instruction. I was hopeful we could provide that. However, when the Snohomish Health District recommended starting school with distance learning due to the rising number of COVID cases in our region, we listened.

They shared that people ages 15 through 39 (our high schoolers and many of our children’s parents) accounted for about 60% of the COVID cases. Opening schools with the likelihood of having outbreaks and subsequent school closures, and the possibility of contributing to viral spread, was a risk I was not willing to take.

When we received the health district’s guidance in mid-July, staff work groups paused their in-person instruction plans and began focusing on distance learning. Their work in developing re-opening school plans will be useful when we do return to school. I look forward to that time, when case numbers are down and the data indicates it is safer to gather.

Right now, we are focused on distance learning that will be better than it was this past spring. Students will receive 180 days of instruction, which may be a combination of teacher-led instruction, assignments, assessments, and projects. Staff and families will hear more about schedules, attendance, grading and expectations in the coming weeks. Families will also receive more information and assistance as school begins to make sure they have what they need to support their children’s education during distance learning.

To enhance consistency in distance learning and in-person instruction model, the district will use Schoology as a learning management system. This will provide one main platform for content, assignments, assessments and communication between teachers and students. I encourage you to preview Schoology on the Return to School Learning Management Website at http://www.mukilteoschools.org/Page/14852.

The Instructional Planning Work Group is developing best practices and professional development for teachers. Just a few of the topics they are working on include social emotional learning, equity, instruction and intervention, assessment and collaboration.

We are working with childcare partners to provide district academic support to students while they are in their care. I have received several questions from people wondering why we aren’t able to provide school if these organizations are able to provide childcare.

Two important differences between schools and childcare centers are group size and flexibility. The childcare partners we work with, primarily the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club of Snohomish County, are flexible to expand or downsize their operations based on family needs in a way schools are not. They can add rooms, locations and staff if the demand increases, or downsize if the demand decreases.

Once schools open for in-person instruction, we will not have that flexibility. They also serve smaller groups of children compared to the hundreds of students at an elementary school on a given school day. That should help keep any viral transmission to a minimum.

Next steps

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has requested to see school districts’ plans by two weeks before school begins. For the Mukilteo School District, that deadline is Aug. 19. We’ll share our plans with staff and families through several town hall style webinars later this month. If you’re interested in tuning in, you can find the details on the district home page at http://www.mukilteoschools.org.

Even though school this September will be held remotely, the learning and connections will be very real. We all look forward to an enriching and education-filled year. Thank you for partnering with us!

 

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