District Schedules Tentative Return to In-Person Learning February 18
All North Beach schools are tentatively scheduled to return to in-person learning on a hybrid schedule on February 18, 2021, Superintendent Andrew Kelly announced January 31. Students in the elementary schools will attend on varying schedules, depending on the numbers of students in their classes and the schools’ capacity to physically distance them in the classroom to meet state health safety requirements. Secondary students will return on a hybrid schedule that puts them in school two days a week and learning remotely the other three.
In-person classes are tentatively scheduled to begin February 18 district-wide. Parents should watch for communications from their child’s school regarding the days their child will be scheduled to start.
Parents are encouraged to join a district-wide Zoom meeting, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, February 3. Log into https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84412912214 to hear the details of North Beach School District’s plan to return to in-person instruction, as well as the option to continue remote instruction for families who prefer that. Superintendent Kelly’s PowerPoint is available here.
Now more than ever, the district needs to have good contact information for parents. Parents should contact their child’s school to ensure their current phone number, e-mail address and mailing address are on file, if there have been any changes in the past year. Watch the website, www.northbeachschools.org and the district and school Facebook pages for changes in the schedule as this return to school plan may change. In addition to county-wide COVID-19 activity levels, the plan depends on reaching mutual agreement with district labor unions in the form of a memorandum of understanding to guide this new modality of work.
What’s driving the decision to return to in-person learning?
The region-wide reduction in COVID-19 activity combined with the state’s guidelines that direct schools to return to in-person learning when the region’s COVID-19 activity level drops into the moderate range. The current case count in Grays Harbor is listed on the state website is 407 per 100,000. However, the Grays Harbor Health Department also calculated that, when the number of COVID-19 cases among incarcerated individuals is subtracted, the community number is just under 227 per 100,000, well under the threshold of 350.
As a result, Grays Harbor County is moving into Phase 2 on Monday, February 1st. The decision to bring students back into the school building is based on Governor Jay Inslee’s “Road to Recovery,” https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/HealthyWashington.pdf. This new guidance, which was published by the governor’s office in mid-December, provides school districts clear direction from the governor, the Washington Department of Health, and OSPI regarding the return to in-person instruction.
Since last March’s emergency closure of schools, the entire district team has worked valiantly to support all students through distance learning. Younger students in both elementary schools have already begun in-person instruction, and secondary students have been invited to come to school for “study rooms,” where they can get in-person learning support.
Still, based on the district survey given in January, 89% of our district staff believe that distance learning is NOT as effective as in-person instruction. Based on the same survey, most district employees have confidence in what science says about the virus and how the risk of infection can be reduced, the practices the district has put in place, and the efforts made to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Likewise, among parent and families surveyed in January, the majority wanted a return to in-person instruction.
Returning to school safely
Safety requirements for in-person instruction start with the basics we’ve all learned during this pandemic: Masking up, sanitizing surfaces, staying home when sick, and maintaining physical distance between individuals in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and other communal spaces.
For North Beach School District, like other schools and districts around the state, physical distancing at the secondary level is especially complicated.
At this time, students attending North Beach Middle and High School will return on a hybrid “AA/BB” schedule. This means that students will be assigned to cohorts (groups that remain together) and will attend either on Monday and Tuesday, or Thursday and Friday. Students will not be in the school building on Wednesdays.
Preliminary schedules for Ocean Shores Elementary and Pacific Beach Elementary are below.
For those parents who prefer to have their children continue distance learning, North Beach schools will continue this option through the end of 2020-21 school year. The district will work with teachers who have valid reasons to remain in remote instruction until needed conditions can be met, such as completing immunizations.
Moving forward, Superintendent Andrew Kelly said, “North Beach School District will continue to follow all Washington Department of Health and state guidelines. Science will drive our decision making.”
When will school get back to normal?
For North Beach schools to move back to a completely in-person instruction model, the county COVID-19 activity will need to trend downward and remain low. As in all steps through the pandemic, any decision to return to full-time in-person instruction will be made with input and agreement between the superintendent, the board of directors, the district’s labor unions and parents.
“We will work and learn together in support of a safe and effective workplace and learning space,” he concluded.