Commentary: We’re committed to serving Edmonds School District students and staff safely

Dr. Gustavo Balderas

Dear Edmonds School District students, families, staff and community members,

While I hoped to introduce myself to the community in person when I started my role as the Edmonds School District superintendent on July 1, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed my plans, as it has changed the plans for each of us, especially our students.

I am taking this moment to share with you my commitment to serve the children and young adults in our district. If you told me in March 2020 that I would be starting a new job in Washington state and doing it in the fully remote learning model the state has titled, Continuous Learning 2.0, I would never have believed you. But here we are. And the school board, the district’s executive leadership team and I are going to do everything we can to put our students first and provide them with the educational opportunities they deserve.

Before in-person learning can take place once again, we must ensure the safety of our students and staff. With the increasing health risks surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of July, we needed to make the best decision with the best information we had at that moment, and so we decided to start the school year remotely.

We realize our decision not to have in-person learning opportunities at this time extends the hardship, uncertainty and equity gaps already imposed on many of our families. Please know we are working to address learning needs, childcare and other impacts of this difficult choice.

Timeline for when we could return to in-person learning

When it is safe for our students and staff, we look forward to offering in-person learning. A fully remote learning option would still be available for families.

We want to be as transparent as possible with our students, families, staff and community when it comes to our strategic planning for in-person learning. At this time, we plan to do any switch to in-person learning at the start of each new quarter or semester. We would only allow for in-person learning if we receive guidance from our local and state health departments that it is safe to do so.

Our current timeline is based on the logistics of returning to in-person learning for our teachers, students and families, and other critical operational and staffing processes needed for us to be able to safely reopen our buildings. We are committed to providing ongoing updates as we approach each possible transition date for in-person learning to allow for enough notice for families to plan for any changes.  

Continuous Learning 2.0 will be better than the spring

We know Continuous Learning (the state’s definition for a fully remote learning model outside the classroom) in the spring was not perfect, and in fact, left many families frustrated. There was no playbook for what schools had to do when they were told to close their doors and immediately switch to a remote learning model. Never in my life would I have imagined having to close school buildings in such a drastic manner. However, we’ve learned and we’ve listened and we are working diligently to make the remote learning experience better.

We are committed to providing a high quality remote learning experience for our students, teachers and families in the following ways: 

  • Streamline digital resources: We plan to offer one digital platform for our 3rd through 12th grade students. Our pre-k through 2nd grade students will have a separate digital platform that we believe is more suitable for younger students. 
  • Provide clear and consistent expectations: We want our students, families and staff to have a clear understanding of expectations for learning. Students in our advisory group for the planning of Reopening Edmonds Schools 2020 told us they want more day-to-day structure. With that in mind, we will continue to be flexible for our families and meet them where they are when it comes to remote learning. 
  • Focus on providing a sense of belonging in a virtual environment: We want to have more opportunities for students to connect with their classmates and their teachers, which could include more virtual small group activities. We also will improve communication between families and teachers. 

Support for students and families

We recognize that distance learning cannot fully meet the needs of all our students. We have a group doing intentional work right now on the best ways the district can provide additional support when it comes to students receiving Special Education Services, English Learners, students experiencing homelessness and other needs.

Community forums

Clear and consistent communication is critical to our work and we owe that to the communities we serve. The district hosted three virtual community forums in July. We took the questions and feedback from those events and have scheduled more community forums to take place over the next few weeks as we get closer to the first day of school. The links to the webinars will be available on our district’s online calendar as the dates get closer. 

Special education
6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020

Child care
6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020
6-7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 (Community partners will be present at this forum.)

Technology
6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 

Student health
6-7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, 2020

Thank you

I want to say a sincere thank you to our community. This is an extremely difficult time and I want to assure all our families that we are doing everything we can to support the health of our community and provide our students with the education they deserve. 

I look forward to a time when we can meet in person and I can go to schools and get to know our incredible students. That day will come. 

Best,

Dr. Gustavo Balderas
Superintendent

  1. Yes, and having no armed security in schools any longer will certainly help to ensure the safety of our kids.

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