Dear Skamania School District Families,
I hope you had a nice summer and were able to enjoy some downtime in this unusual time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our fall return to education looks different than in the past. Health and safety is always our top priority, along with providing a quality education for our students. With those important goals in mind, I am writing to share an update on our plans to deliver education this fall.
The Skamania School Board met last night to review and approve our plans for back to school in the fall. Taking into account high COVID-19 infection rates in Skamania county and using newly released state Department of Health (DOH) metrics to guide their decision, the board approved a plan to begin the school year under a robust remote learning model.
In early August, state leaders and the state DOH announced a “decision tree” framework to guide school districts as they determine how to resume learning this fall. The framework emphasizes that community transmission must be low in order for schools to reopen safely for in-person learning. DOH’s “decision tree” framework offers metrics based on three COVID-19 activity levels, high, moderate and low:
- High COVID Activity Level: More than 75 cases per 100,000 people in 14 days. At this level, DOH recommends remote/distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning for students who need it most – such as children with disabilities.
- Moderate COVID Activity Level: 25–75 cases per 100,000 people in 14 days. At this level, DOH recommends remote/distance learning as described above, with gradual expansion to in-person education, beginning with elementary students. Younger students under the age of 10 benefit the most from in-person learning while also posing less risk for transmitting COVID-19 than older students.
- Low COVID Activity Level: Less than 25 cases per 100,000 in 14 days. At this level, DOH recommends full-time in-person learning for all elementary students and hybrid learning for middle and high school, eventually moving to in-person for middle and high school.
Data from Washington State’s COVID-19 Risk Assessment Dashboard, indicates that Skamania County falls into the high virus activity category, with 82.9 cases per 100,000 people in 14 days. After conversations with our local health experts and analysis of the available data, it is clear that the safest way to start the school year is in a thoughtful and developed fully remote learning model, which was the option approved by our board last night.
Public health experts caution that the virus trajectory must decline before we are able to bring students and staff back to campus safely and without significant risk of the virus spreading rapidly in the community. See letter from the local health department doctor at this link.
What does this mean for my family?
School is scheduled to start on September 2. Over the next several weeks, we will work to refine our return to learning plans and share these plans with you. The plans include family, staff and student feedback to create a more thoughtful, robust and accountable remote learning experience for students.
Our hope is to transition from full remote learning to a hybrid model, with some remote learning and some version of on-campus learning as soon as it is possible and safe. The timing for this transition is dependent on regional health indicators. Our learning delivery model stages are outlined below.
Learning Delivery Models Stages
- ALL Students Learn Remotely – enhanced learning: All students participate in distance learning through our ‘virtual academy’ five (5) days per week. (Current stage)
- SOME Students at School and SOME Remote (Hybrid Model)- Modified in-person learning: Students in greatest need of additional support will be identified through a set of district/school developed criteria using in-person instruction.
- ALL Students At School – full-time in-person learning: All students and staff participate onsite with in-person instruction five (5) days a week.
What if a fully online model is preferred regardless of the health trends in our county?
If your preference is a fully online model for your student, we have developed the Skamania Virtual Academy. This program will not shift through the stages listed above. It will stay online throughout the year. The Skamania Virtual Academy will join an online community staffed by Skamania School District teachers and support staff. It will be similar to going to school in person with comprehensive graded lessons and support, direct instruction, and required attendance.
The learning standards and learning goals will be the same as for students in a physical classroom.
What if I need childcare during learning delivery models 1 through 3?
We recognize that each family is in a unique situation and may need child care support. We are working to develop options for families in these situations. Please take this survey to indicate your interest and need.
What if my family relies on school breakfast and/or lunch services?
We will develop a modified meal distribution process, similar to the one utilized in the spring, to provide meals to students during remote learning. Additional information on this process will be forthcoming.
There are many more details yet to be worked out and we understand your desire for answers. The chart at this link was approved by the board last night and includes more details.
Please know that we are working around the clock to come up with options during this uncertain and unprecedented time. We will continue to connect with our public health partners to determine when we can return to school for in-person instruction safely. Until then, we will continue to share information with you as decisions are made. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.
Dr. Ralph Pruitt, Superintendent