As the Edmonds School District plans for reopening schools in the 2020-21 school year, district officials are looking to split student learning between home and the classroom.
The Edmonds School Board held a special study session Wednesday morning, during which district staff presented options for resuming in-person teaching in the fall. Based on the guidance from Gov. Jay Inslee, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the Department of Health, the district has determined it will implement a hybrid model of learning, where students are on campus for a portion of each week for in-person instruction and participate in remote learning for the remainder of the week.
During the meeting, district staff presented three models for teaching being considered. The first two are similar options that involve dividing students into three groups, with Groups A and B following the hybrid model and Group C completely learning remotely. Group A would attend in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesday and be taught remotely on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, Group B would learn remotely on Monday through Wednesday and attend classes in person on Thursday and Friday.
Similarly, Option 2 would involve splitting students into three groups. However, under this model of learning, Group A would attend in-person classes Monday and Thursday with remote learning Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Group B would attend classes in person on Tuesday and Friday and remotely on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Group C would be taught remotely five days a week.
Under Option 3, kindergarten and first grade students would be taught in person more than two days a week, creating a Group D. Second through 12th grade students would then be either in Group A or Group B. Group C students would continue to do full remote learning.
When splitting students into separate groups, Executive Director for Students Learning Rob Baumgartner said alphabetical would be the most convenient way for district families. For families with students in the district across multiple grade levels, categorizing by last name would offer a consistent schedule, Baumgartner said.
“So you don’t have a student in third grade in Group A and a (sibling) in high school in Group B and it creates conflict for the family, so we wanted to make sure our families were on the same schedule,” he said.
All models recommend that Wednesday be a remote learning day for most students to allow for teacher planning and professional development, as well as time for intervention service and recovery learning services for students. This day would also be used for deep cleaning school buildings.
Since the district anticipates the need for more cleaning, Director Carin Chase asked if hiring more custodial staff would be necessary and whether the district would receive additional funding from the state to cover the cost.
In response, Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab said staff have already taken that into consideration and will be addressing it after a model is chosen. He added that several members of the district’s custodial staff fit into high-risk groups that are more susceptible to COVID-19.
The district is also building on the continuous learning methods it used when it initially closed buildings last spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to preparing for the possibility that schools may be directed to close again, Schwab said the district needs to have a solid remote-learning plan in place for families who aren’t ready to send students back to in-person teaching.
“We also need to be ready to offer something alongside what we’re offering with the hybrid model,” he said.
District staff is aiming to have a teaching model selected by July 24. Schwab said the time between selecting a plan and school starting in September would allow district bargaining teams to meet with union representatives for approval.
“We want to make sure that we get this plan in place so that our bargaining teams can then address those things that are going to be impacts on working conditions,” he said.
Special education services will be determined by which program students are enrolled in and intervention learning services and recovery learning services will be determined by individualized education program (IEP) teams. While selecting the best option, Director Gary Noble advised that staff prioritize students receiving special education.
“I think that’s one area that’s been really difficult for families,” he said. “If there’s any way we can increase the time that our special education students are in class that would be my highest priority.”
During the discussion, Director Ann McMurray pointed out that according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), computers and internet access are crucial to provide students a required basic education, and she asked if the state would be reimbursing the district for offering Chromebooks and internet hot spots.
McMurray also asked how the district will be handling the attendance requirements mentioned under OSPI’s plans for the new school year.
Baumgartner said the district is considering options, but it may have students log in at a predetermined time and school administrators could compile attendance reports as usual. If students do not meet their log-in attendance requirements, a call would be made to the student’s home, Baumgartner added.
“It’s definitely a challenge in front of us for how to account for students’ attendance, and we’re preparing for a variety of expectations on how that needs to look, that we’ll get from OSPI,” he said.
District leaders have established and will oversee working groups for implementing reopening plans. After a model is selected, the work groups — composed of district families, students, staff and administration — will be tasked with finalizing the plans before the fall.
The work groups include a COVID-19 Emergency Response team, which will lead operational and logistical considerations for reopening schools; a Continuous Learning Task Force, which will focus on the instructional side of learning and develop a plan for both reopening for in-person instruction and for pivoting back to fully remote instruction; and an advisory team including students, families and community members that will provide input and direction while the district makes plans for the school year.
Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said he will be working with district staff and advisory groups to ensure needs are met across the district. He added that he is aiming to provide the board with updates every two weeks.
“(We’re) trying to include those student voices as well to make sure that we’re pretty distributive across our communities,” he said.
For more information about the plans for a hybrid teaching model, visit the district’s website.
–By Cody Sexton