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The Pain of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Pain of the COVID-19 Pandemic is real and has been one of the most challenging leadership dilemmas that I’ve faced in my 30 years in public education. It seems at every juncture, I as your superintendent, have been thrust into impossible decisions which no matter how I proceed, will not adequately meet the needs of each of our kids, our staff, and all of their families.

Here are two graphs from the Washington State Dashboard for Decisions showing the rapid spread of COVID in the state and in Grays Harbor County.  Graphs are updated daily here.

Washington State COVID-19 infection rate graph

 

CoVID-19 Case rate increase for Grays Harbor County graph

 

As of December 6, 2020, more than 281,000 Americans have died and more than 14.7 million COVID-19 cases have been documented across our nation. The numbers in Washington State and Grays Harbor County are just as staggering.

In Washington schools, the Washington Department of Health and the Grays Harbor County Health Department have asked district superintendents to follow the “Decision Tree for Provision of in Person Learning among Public and Private K-12 Students."

As you can see by reviewing the guidelines within the Decision Tree below and the current state and county numbers, we clearly are not YET at a place where we can work to bring ALL our kids back to school at all the same time.

Said differently, unfortunately the science and the data isn’t yet at a place for us to “get back to normal.

Decision tree graphic for schools on reopening

I am hopeful for the coming vaccinations and improving therapeutics that are increasingly becoming more available for all. We can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but the data suggests that we have a bit of darkness yet to endure.

My position since the beginning of this Pandemic last March, has been that I, as your Superintendent, and the district holistically, must work aggressively to give every student/parent “what they need” to be successful within the context of the disease.

The first and most important goal of our district MUST be to protect the health and safety of our students, our staff, and their families. Then, as quickly as possible, we must come back and support as many kids as possible in delivering high quality “in person” instruction.

Let me assure you that NO educator likes “distance learning.” Despite our best efforts, we know that it isn’t as successful with as many kids as in person, face to face learning.

Just as importantly, we also know that schools, for the past 100 years have been the primary “social services” provider for most of our kids. Schools are expected to not only educate, but also to feed, provide basic needs, support through counseling, provide mental health intervention, be the safety net for Children’s Services, and many, many other vital supports for kids.

I worry each and every day about kids (and families) who need our direct in person support through school that we haven’t yet been able to provide at the level that I would like.

As we race towards the New Year and “end of the tunnel” that is COVID-19 the North Beach School District will continue to do the following.

  • Provide the very best distance learning opportunities that we possibly can and continue to improve as a district in our educational approach.
  • Continue to provide daily delivery of school breakfast and lunch to our families who have requested.
  • Offer as much “in-person” instruction, to as many students as possible, given the constraints of the COVID numbers in our county, the requests by our kids/families, and our locally negotiated MOUs.
  • Provide Holiday Food Boxes to the 110 families, across our district, who have requested this help/support on Saturday, December 19 and 26.
  • Provide a Holiday Gift Giveaway, collaboratively with District partners on December  20. (As of December 6, 181 parents have signed up)
  • Expand the health/medical services available to ALL NBSD students by creating on campus health clinics beginning Janury 4, 2021.
  • Continue to plan for returning to a full hybrid, in person instructional modality (under the guidance provided by the Decision Tree)
  • Continue to respond to ALL parent requests for support in an attempt to mitigate and resolve any concerns or needs that come up.

Who would have known when I began as your superintendent and adopted the hashtag, #riseABOVEtheTIDE, that we would experience some of the most turbulent waters of my lifetime. I’m confident that as we engage with and support each other that we can emerge from this Pandemic with a better school district which provides better instruction and does an even better job of meeting the needs of each scholar than we ever imagined possible.

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement! Please do your part by staying home as much as possible, wearing a mask when you are in proximity to others, and continuing to social distance.

For Kids,

Andy

(360) 870-3321

akelly@northbeachschools.org