Edmonds School Board decides on hybrid learning model, reviews budget for 2020-21 school year

The Edmonds School Board announced this week it will use a hybrid model of learning that will place students into groups and split their time between in-person and remote learning.

After discussing during a July 1 study session how best to reopen schools in the fall during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Edmonds School Board Tuesday night agreed with a staff recommendation to pursue a hybrid learning model that will split students into two groups and divide their time between in-person and remote teaching.

For the past several weeks, district leaders have been working with staff, families and community stakeholders to develop a learning model that prioritizes safety for everyone. At last week’s study session, the school board discussed three proposals to combine in-person teaching and remote learning.

At the board’s July 7 business meeting, board members agreed with a district staff-recommended model that will divide students into two groups, with Group A students attending in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and being taught remotely on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, Group B will learn remotely on Monday through Wednesday and attend classes in person on Thursday and Friday.

While the district is working to provide a safe learning environment, Superintendent Gustavo Balderas admitted there is “no perfect schedule” and there will be impacts on students, families and staff.

“Schools will look different this fall,” he said. “From cohorting kids to possibly having to limit parent volunteers because of the restrictions. This is not what schooling should look like, but this is something we’re being forced to undertake under the current circumstances.”

The model also allows families to choose to participate in online-only learning, placing those students in a third group. Additionally, district staff is looking into an extended four-day schedule for preschool through first grade students that would create a fourth group.

Wednesdays will be a remote learning day for most students, allowing for teacher planning and professional development as well as providing intervention and recovery learning services for students. The day will also be used to do “deep cleaning” in buildings between student cohorts.

Under the model, special education services will be determined by district staff and individualized education program (IEP) teams working on a case-by-case basis. District staff has designated instructional work groups to develop additional opportunities for in-person instruction and services for special education students. Proposed ideas include additional in-person services for students who receive a majority of their instruction in a special education setting.

The district will also continue developing plans for continuous learning in the event that schools are ordered to close by state or local health departments, said Assistant Superintendent Dana Geaslen.

“We need to continually be ready to go all the way back,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab agreed with Superintendent Balderas that there is no perfect model for returning to teaching, but added that the recommended model allows the district to operate more efficiently.

“Logistically, it makes things work better,” he said.

During the discussion, Board President Deborah Kilgore asked if district staff have considered reopening unused school buildings like those at the former Alderwood Middle and Woodway High.

According to Balderas, the district may use those sites to provide child care, depending on the condition of the building.

Also regarding child care, Schwab added that the district is continuing to develop plans for families that will need services on days students are not in classes. As for athletics, Schwab said the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) is working on different scenarios to determine the future of school sports.

When dividing students into groups, Director Nancy Katims suggested using addresses instead of last names. After reviewing plans in other districts, Katims said it could be beneficial for siblings with different last names who live in the same home. She added that families in the same neighborhoods could offer each other support. Katims also suggested that the district start gathering information on parents who plan to use online-only learning.

“For one reason, (it will) keep them from going off to virtual academies (outside the district), so they’ll know we’ll be serving them and to be able to get numbers,” she said.

In other business, the board held a public hearing regarding the proposed 2020-21 district budget. The budget estimates revenues, expenditures, and fund balances for each fund.

Prior to the hearing, district Finance Director Lydia Sellie presented the budget to the board and reviewed significant highlights. She began with an update on projected student enrollment, which was reported to be 157 students over district levels. However, she added that was before the COVID-19 pandemic and that number is subject to change.

According to the budget, district revenues were projected to be at $353,827,000. Under expenditures, Sellie said the district anticipates receiving $2.3 million in CARES Act funds to help the district cover the cost of COVID-related financial impacts. In response to the pandemic, district expenditures included personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, child care for health care workers and first responders, and hot spots for students without internet access.

Also under revenues, estimated levy collections will be increasing and the district anticipates getting just under $54.3 million. While voters in 2018 approved a $66.5 million technology levy, that amount exceeds what districts are allowed to collect under the state formula used to calculate levy collections.

Earlier this year, district staff discussed financial impacts the pandemic could have on the property tax collection and anticipated that it would not receive all of the levied funds. As a result of COVID-related job loss and other impacts, Sellie said the district has not yet collected all of the levy funds from the 2019-20 school year. However, she said the district does not plan to include uncollected property taxes from the last school year in the proposed budget, since property tax collections continue to come in at a lower trajectory than previous years.

“In the last recession it took about three years before all of our collections came in, but we will eventually recover all of that funding,” she said.

Next year’s budget will also include an additional state-funded professional development day for certified instructional staff, which will increase revenues by $600,000.

The budget anticipates district expenditures for next school year to be at $357,727,000. In accordance with collective bargaining agreements that have been (or are expected to be) reached, Sellie said the district anticipates spending an additional $3.1 million on salaries and benefits.

The district is also providing more staffing support for overcrowded elementary schools, including Sherwood, Westgate and Oak Heights. Officials won’t know how much additional staff will be needed until actual enrollment for the new year is determined, Sellie said.

The district anticipates receiving $25,138,000 from the state for materials, supplies and operating costs (MSOCS), which Sellie said covers district expenses not related to staff compensation or benefits. According to the budget, MSOCS expenditures were calculated at $22,934,908. Since the state MSOCS funding will exceed the district’s proposed expenditures, the district is required to propose how it will spend the difference.

“The difference will be used for unfunded salaries because competitive salaries are used to attract and retain qualified staff to improve student achievement,” Sellie said.

The budget also shows the district ending 2020 with a total fund balance of $22.5 million with an unassigned fund balance of just under $11 million, which translates to 3.3% of current year’s expected expenditures.

For 2021, Sellie said the district anticipates a declining unassigned fund balance of $6.95 million, or 2.03% of estimated expenditures. That is less than district policy, which requires the budget to show a 4% unassigned fund balance.

“At this time, Dr. Balderas and I are studying our budget and looking at ways we can improve our ending fund balance for next year,” she said.

In response, Director Ann McMurray said she was uncomfortable with such a low undesignated fund percentage.

“That’s shaving too much off,” she said.

The district will receive $24 million in levied funds from its 2014 construction bond. This will be the last year the district receives funds from the 2014 bond.

While the district failed to pass its 2020 $600 million construction bond, voters approved a $96 million replacement technology/capital levy. The levy will fund student laptops and Chromebooks for teachers and students, instructional equipment, audio/visual equipment and tech support. The levy will also allow for some improved physical security measures, school building technology and some field, track and gym improvements.

The debt service fund pays principal and interest on debt (bonds) that were issued in previous years. The debt service fund budget for 2020-21 is $59,467,600 and the fund levy is $59.5 million for 2021.

District staff is requesting $2.2 million to purchase an additional 18 buses — eight large buses and 10 small ones.

For the associated student body fund, the district estimated a budget of $3,293,415. Sellie said the district looked at the 2019-20 year for guidance since staff are still uncertain about the upcoming year and how students plan to raise funds for activities.

“If they don’t achieve as many avenues as in previous years they won’t be doing as many activities,” she said.

Sellie opened the public hearing for the budget by reading a submitted comment from Seaview Elementary School teacher Janet Foster, who asked the board not to cut teachers, support staff or classroom supplies.

“Our job is going to be so very hard to get kids back on track without having to worry about how much copying we do,” Foster stated.

Next, Sellie read a comment from Melissa Hudson, who asked if the district will have the funds to finish construction of Spruce Elementary School. In response, Sellie said the district would likely not be able to complete construction at this time since the 2020 bond did not pass.

“If for some reason we’re able to acquire funding to complete Spruce during the 20-21 fiscal year, we would come back to the board to ask for additional budget authority in the amount of the fund that we receive,” she said.

The board will continue to discuss the proposed budget before it votes on the adoption in August.

–By Cody Sexton

14 Replies to “Edmonds School Board decides on hybrid learning model, reviews budget for 2020-21 school year”

  1. A few questions…

    What is the science that says Covid is more serious to students than the flu? Does this mean that we will now going forward never fully open any school year to prevent child flu deaths?

    With schools being open only 4 days a week and 50% class sizes does this mean that teachers and other district staff are looking at an equal prorated pay decrease from their current 5 day a week full attendance contracts?

    With students being in facility only 2 days a week does this shift Federal funding and/or property taxes?

    Will this proposed plan disproportionately affect children of color?

    What is the anticipated impact on special needs children going to school 2 days a week versus a 5 day week?

    Will the public school system stop opposing charter schools, more facilities means the total student base spreads out, or is the top priority that students attend public schools?

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    1. Have you looked at death, infection and hospitalization rates? Is that enough for you?

      While students are only in the school half the time, I’m pretty sure the teachers will be full time. Classes aren’t going to be cut in half, student attendance in the school will be.

      Why would it?

      A really solid question. I don’t think there is any way to fully know just yet but I would guess that it unfortunately will. However, covid is also disproportionately impacting communities of color as well, not really sure there is a good solution and it might be a situation of what will create the most good right now. Do you have a different suggestion?

      Another good question. One I don’t have a response to.

      Why would having more facilities, pulling more funding do anything right now? Is there any evidence of charter schools costing less while serving more students? What’s your point about charter schools? I really don’t see a connection here outside of your personal opinion and trying to force into this conversation but am open to hearing more.

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      1. “Have you looked at death, infection and hospitalization rates? Is that enough for you?”

        Yes I have, children face a more serious concern from flu than Covid, but we don’t take these measures to protect them from the flu. 23 countries in Europe opened back up months ago without significant problems. There are some school districts in the US that never closed and many more that look to be full open in September.

        “While students are only in the school half the time, I’m pretty sure the teachers will be full time. Classes aren’t going to be cut in half, student attendance in the school will be.”

        Unless each teacher is going to teach their 50% class and their 50% online at the same time they will see a reduced burden. If they were being asked to teach an additional 10 students a day don’t you feel they would ask for and deserve a bump in pay? If they see a reduction in burden should not the taxpayers ask for a reduction in compensation? My question also asked about other staff than just teachers.

        “Why would it?”

        The reason for half days in years past where students spend just 15 minutes in each of 6 classes accomplishing nothing more than taking attendance is that part of Federal funding counts number of kids in seats for number of days. This would shift under a hybrid plan and possibly could trigger a shift in funding.

        “Why would having more facilities, pulling more funding do anything right now? Is there any evidence of charter schools costing less while serving more students? What’s your point about charter schools? I really don’t see a connection here outside of your personal opinion and trying to force into this conversation but am open to hearing more.”

        More facilities means we can stretch the total population of the student body out and more effectively distance. This is why Edmonds School District is looking at the possibility of opening the former Alderwood Middle and Woodway High campuses.

        It says in the Edmonds budget that they anticipate spending 360 million. In the 2020 school year they reported 20,684 students across 36 campuses. Attendance is supposed to go up 170 for this year so 360 mil / 20,854 = $17,262.88 per student.

        Doing a search I found 165 private schools that cost less than that. Right now there are only 10 charter schools in all of Washington State, with 4 more set to open this coming school year. They are free to attend and publicly funded like regular schools but get no money from property taxes or levies.

        It is hard to find good hard facts on charter schools because there is so much propaganda being put out by both sides. The only cost breakdown I saw was for 2017 which put it at $5,542.86. It was also mentioned that 8 out of the 10 enroll students with disabilities at a higher rate than public schools.

        According to the most recent Washington State Report Card (which is 2018)…

        Across the charter, the public school sector, fifth-graders from low-income households met or exceeded grade-level expectations on the SBAC math test at higher rates than peers in their local districts and statewide in the same subgroup.

        Across the charter public school sector, Hispanic/Latinx sixth graders met or exceeded grade-level expectations at higher rates than their Hispanic/Latinx peers in local districts and statewide on both the ELA and math SBAC tests.

        Across the charter public school sector, Black/African American eighth-graders met or exceeded grade-level expectations at higher rates than their Black/African American peers in local districts on the math SBAC test.

        Students at Washington’s charter public high schools outperformed their peers in local districts and across the state by more than 10 percent on the 11th grade statewide science test (WCAS).

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  2. Not specific to students, but according to the state’s latest updates, there have been 1426 COVID-19 deaths to day, and 104 influenza deaths to date this season. Six of those influenza deaths were children. None of the deaths from COVID-19 are under 19 years of age, but 1% of all COVID cases required hospitalization of a child – that’s not 1% of 1426, it’s 1% of 41,000 cases – 410. So while it doesn’t kill children (yet), it does cause more children to need hospitalization than die from flu.
    It’s also important to remember that students don’t go to school alone. Sending them is also requiring someone to go teach them, someone who is almost sure to be in a higher risk group, if only because of age. I have two sisters who teach, and as they and many others have noted, we don’t fund our schools well enough for the classrooms to have kleenex – without teachers or parents sending them. How do we expect them to afford to stock sanitizer, wipes, etc. That’s just one of many questions that need to be answered, if parents, teachers, and students are returning to the education sector safely.

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  3. At this point 7 plus weeks out just talk ,science will tell the story at the time of school returns , and this plan would make teachers caregivers correct so what if they can’t tell a child is sick .And should teachers all get screened for covid so many factors.

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  4. Brian, how sure are you on that 410 cases of child hospitalization number? Just seems hard to believe that many cases were severe enough to require hospitalization resulted in zero deaths. Unless they are counting something like bringing your kid into the ER and leaving the same day. Oops I just noticed you took 1% of total positives not hospitalizations.

    Jumping over to the state dashboard it says as of July 9th we have had 4,662 hospitalizations so 1% would be rounded up to 47.

    Also something to possibly consider with a 1% figure is that it might mean everything from a single case (which makes it not zero) to the number that gets you to 1%. Once you get above 1% on charts you are much more likely to see a true representation of the numbers. The state dashboard under hospitalizations…

    1% are 0-19
    13% are 20-39
    28% are 40-59
    38% are 60-79
    21% are 80+

    …my math says that is 101% so even the 47 figure is likely high.

    What would be interesting is to see a breakdown of students and teachers numbers before the school closures and after. For months (even today) I’ve seen a lot of kids not distancing outside of school and we are not seeing a large number getting Covid. Teachers and staff have also been in the public through that time and will be in non-school hours once they open in whatever version.

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    1. Your remarks indicate you have already made up your mind and it won’t be changed. You asked fo evidence and science, it was provided and then you question it.

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    2. You’re right – I did mistakenly take the 1% of all cases, not hospitalizations. So it would indeed be 47. I do agree that the majority of kids I see out and about are not wearing masks, or distancing. I worry about that, and about the way we’re now having a younger, 2nd wave, and the potential lifetime health impacts of what are otherwise nonfatal.
      But for getting kids back in schools, there is an excellent list of questions posed by a teacher, I wish I could find it. It points out some of the absurd and unrealistic expectations we’ll be placing on teachers, if we send all of their students back full-time.
      What was “normal” may never be again, at least not in the near future. The world worked differently when polio was around, but people managed. We can probably figure out a way for students to get an education without being packed into rooms at shared tables (many schools no longer use desks, or even own them), and maybe that’s all-virtual teachers.

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      1. We should look at the schools in Europe, many reopened back in April and May some stayed closed until early June. Just finished reading an article on Politico that looks at both the science and concern issues, its dated June 10th so there might be something more recent but its a good article…

        https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/10/european-school-reopeningsreduce-virus-concerns-for-most-312595

        …found this one from today in the Washington Post…

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/schools-reopening-coronavirus/2020/07/10/865fb3e6-c122-11ea-8908-68a2b9eae9e0_story.html

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        1. A quote from the Washington Post article to which you linked:

          “Schools have only reopened in countries where the virus is under better control than in many parts of the United States. And parents and teachers, especially in Europe, have been vocal about their concerns.“

          I do believe most school aged kids do better in actual school than virtual school. I also believe that it is useful to look at the data, and am hopeful that we can tailor our responses based on the experienceS of other countries. There have been a couple of different things that have been tried, as summarized in the article, and would certainly be useful to look at in our own efforts.

          One concept that was confirmed for me in this article is that a One size fits all response may not be very workable. Certainly areas of WA state that have low incidence of COVID-19 would be taking less risk with fully reopening schools than areas where the incidence is higher. Also, the evidence indicates that younger children (under 12) may be less likely to transmit SARS-COV-2 than older children, so opening elementary schools may present less risk than opening middle schools and high schools.

          Woven throughout the article is another concept that I believe we will need to give thought to, and that is that as long as families perceive that the risk of infection is high, they will resist sending kids to school. Families need to feel comfortable that the incidence of COVID-19 is under some degree of control, that schools have taken a thoughtful approach and developed a plan and back up plans and contingency plans that do not endanger the children or their family members. Staff will also need to be comfortable with the plan(s), and those who administer the plans need to have backup and contingency plans for staffing issues that will arise.

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        2. “A quote from the Washington Post article to which you linked:

          “Schools have only reopened in countries where the virus is under better control than in many parts of the United States. And parents and teachers, especially in Europe, have been vocal about their concerns.“”

          That statement in the article is a bit misleading, if we asked the writer which countries he would probably say all of them. If we had of say reopened schools in May we would have been inline with those April countries and likely had the exact same general numbers we do now in June-July, many would have pointed to the schools opening as the cause. No matter what the infection rate is in the general public there are no studies to show that more than an occasional hotspot is linked to schools. Students all across the country have been doing a lot of NOT social distancing since the shutdown, even worse there have been dozens of reports of Get Covid parties, yet their numbers of infection just are not there to justify being closed. We can make that decision emotionally as we play out all the what if scenarios but not scientifically.

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  5. Kyle, what science that showed it was unsafe at a level that the schools should be closed down more than we do for the flu are you talking about?

    Brian said kids died from the flu last year and did not die from Covid this year, how is that showing that we should go to a 2 day school week?

    The number that I questioned was simply wrong math, should that be ignored? Further it looks like none of us actually even know how many kids have been hospitalized for Covid but that the likely number is pretty small. Whatever the number would it not be a good idea to know?

    He said teachers might get sick, but they are not going to just go to school and then bunker down before going to school again, they might get sick at the store as well as other places. The schools were open while Covid was making people sick, I asked if anyone has any numbers showing how many people got sick during that time because I would like to know and haven’t found it anywhere. From memory I can only remember one case of an adult volunteer in the North Shore School District before everyone shut down. Compare that to how many teachers and kids have gotten Covid since the shutdown, I don’t have that stat either. It would also be good to know how many teachers die of the flu each year, something that kids have been proven to “superspread” unlike Covid.

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  6. I hope they will be having a different teacher with each cohort set. Otherwise the teacher could just spread COVID19 to each cohort and take it home to their family. There should be more protections in place for the staff and teachers. It seems it would be better to have a week of in person teaching and week of online instruction. And a different teacher for each student cohort. That way you have 9 days in between returning to in person instruction in case symptoms emerge. If the numbers are not declining by fall there needs to be an alternative plan. It is worse now then it was in March…just because people are tired of COVID doesn’t mean its going away–its getting worse! We still do not know how COVID19 and the flu season will affect all involved come fall.

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  7. Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel? Everything we are going through now both on the science front and the emotional concerns surrounding Covid Europe and Asia faced in April when they reopened schools. We need to look at what worked and what didn’t and learn from their choices.

    Three months later some countries are no longer doing social distancing on even high school kids because transmission remains are so low. It did not cause the feared spike in the general population. Sweden, which never closed their schools, found in multiple studies that there has not been a spike in teachers and day care workers.

    A team of scientists at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institute, near Stockholm…

    They carried out a systematic review of more than 47 separate studies which showed that children are a low risk of catching, spreading and suffering severe symptoms of the bug.

    Children are also unlikely to infect their families or teachers, the researchers said.

    …One of those, a UK study, shows 1 in 3.5 million for under 15 which is three times less than the rate from lightning. Another shows Sweden lists just 1 death in anyone under 20. Another is from Australia which contact traced 19 child symptomatic positives and had a hard time finding any transmission. Another from France followed a case where the positive interacted with 172 people without transmission. And so on and so on.

    Kids and teachers do not only go to school and then sit in hermetically sealed bubbles all the other hours of the day, if they get it they are as likely with schools open or closed or hybrid. I’ve heard politicians in our state chant “follow the science” all year, why is it now that we are not?

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