Welcome to the 2021-22 school year! Watch this video to see Clara Barton Elementary School students and staff share their excitement on this special day.
August 18 Pathway Forward Video and Transcript
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This transcript was auto-generated and may contain grammatical and/or contextual misrepresentations of Dr. Holmen’s presentation. Some words, phrases or sentences could be out of context.
Welcome and thank you for joining me to hear about our planning efforts for the 21-22 school year. My name is Jon Holmen, Superintendent here in Lake Washington. We have all been on this journey together trying to navigate the best we can the pandemic and its impacts on us both personally and professionally. This shifts and changes, the ups and downs of the last school year were trying, yet we came through this pretty well. The challenges, the difficulties, yet we came through this together. Our next step in this journey is to fully reopen our schools where the majority of Lake Washington students will be returning to full-time and in-person learning. We will also be serving a portion of our students in a remote learning environment due to both health and safety needs.
Regardless of where we get to see your children, our teachers, educators, staff, and administrators are so excited to reconnect with the young people from all across the district. Coming back from challenge takes determination and fortitude, understanding and kindness. We need to recognize that the opening of schools will cause may be new and other stresses that individuals potentially experience from the pandemic. Each of our lived experiences will inform how we view the current state of things and we need to consider this as we interact with each other, our teachers, our school staff and our children.
I want to spend a little bit of time recognizing the current health and safety data as we've done throughout the entire pandemic. We continue to review the health and safety data reported by King County Public Health. It is essential that we consider these data as we make our plans for students and staff to return to school. We know that the current variant of COVID-19, the delta variant, has caused an increase in cases locally and across the country. This variant has some unique features, which is why our adherence to the Department of Health requirements is critically important to maintain continuity of instruction and learning for our students. King County has seen an increase in cases over the last two weeks. This has been seen in all of the areas in our school district: Kirkland, Redmond, Union Hill and Sammamish. Currently King County and the cities within Lake Washington are listed in the high transmission category.
Over the last couple of weeks, hospitalization for COVID-19 has increased across the county. At this time, the cities in Lake Washington have not seen the same increase in hospitalization as others across the county but we do need to pay attention because there has been an increase or an uptick over the last two weeks locally even though it may not be to the same degree as the overall county. This should cause all of us to pause and pay attention. The rates of individuals passing from COVID-19 has sharply declined since the spring. This has been realized across King County and the cities within Lake Washington have seen a substantial shift in these data as well, which is ultimately what we want to see for our communities. With that being said, we have seen a slight increase in this area over the last couple of weeks as well, but not to the same degree as both case rates and hospitalization rates, but severe illness and death are indicators that we will continue to pay attention to across our district and truly as a community.
A new data point that we are paying attention to is vaccination rates within our communities. Currently, about 76 and a half percent of King County residents are fully vaccinated, meaning they've received the one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine or the two doses of the two other vaccines that are currently available. The communities in Lake Washington are currently higher than that overall county rate ranging between 84 and a half and above 95% of our community being fully vaccinated. Our local communities are highly vaccinated areas and public health continues to point to vaccine as a significant strategy to navigate the pandemic. These vaccination rates for our local communities are a positive indicators for the success of our schools and our greater community.
When I think about transitioning into this school year, I think about a few commitments that we as a school district, administrator, staff all across this district are truly committed to. First and foremost, it's that high-quality teaching and learning for all of our students being in place regardless of where our students are learning. That strict adherence and continuing to implement the health and safety protocols. Because we know that by doing that, our students can learn successfully in-person to the greatest degree possible.
We also know that we need to commit to the social, emotional well-being of our students and our staff and truly recognize the impacts of the last 18 months. We also have to continue our commitment to equity and actively address issues of equity across our school district. We know that not all students have had the same level of success as their peers and our commitment is to absolutely each and every student to achieve excellence for themselves in their journey here in the school district. And finally, our focus on success is for each and every student. We can't underscore that enough. The 31,000 plus students that we serve each and every day deserve our best and deserve educational excellence.
I want to talk about a few of the FAQ right now. Later in the presentation I do have some slides that I want to share with you, but right now I just want to share some information about what I would call some frequently asked questions. First, that question of why is the district requiring masking? It's a question we get often, and I think it's a good question and right now, truly the district does not have the authority to make a different decision regarding masking that has been expressed by the Governor of Washington, by the state Superintendent Reykdal and in the Department of Health Guidance. It is explicit that both students, staff and also when visitors on campus, they are required to mask when around students and those are the requirements that we are to follow and that we will enforce in our schools. We'll continue throughout this school year to follow department of Health Guidance. We know that guidance shifts and changes as the pandemic changes.
One of the things that the guidance currently talks about is masking when outdoors. It currently says that it's not required but I also want to encourage us to also think about impact when we think about our students that don't have availability of the vaccination and aren’t vaccinated. The Department of Health Guidance goes on to say that masks are strongly recommended for unvaccinated individuals when outdoors in crowded spaces. When you think about places like elementary lineup before the school day, recess, those can be places that are crowded and we know that masking does reduce the spread of the virus and so we would encourage all of our families to think about this recommendation that the Department of Health has made. Because our goal is to keep all of our students learning in person for the entire school year. And mitigating measures such as masking can help us accomplish this goal for our students.
Another question that we consistently get is the district going to require vaccines for staff or students. And I think, simply put, the district will continue to follow state and Department of Health guidelines regarding vaccines for adults and students. We currently do that as an employer and as a public school agency. There are vaccines that are currently required of students to be able to attend school and so we will continue to follow those guidelines.
Currently there is not a vaccine requirement for staff or students, with the exception of our nurses and other state licensed health professionals that was announced by Governor Inslee just a week or two ago. But we also know that Superintendent Reykdal has made a recommendation to the governor to require all school district staff to be vaccinated. We know that later today Governor Inslee has a press conference at 2:30 and that could be the point where he does announce that vaccines will be required for all school district staff. We don't have any indication that is what he's going to talk about, but it would not be a surprise if that move was made Should that occur. we will comply with and move forward with our staff to make those determinations.
Another question that we get is will the district move to fully remote school again? I think we demonstrated last year that we are able to offer in-person learning for students while mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and reducing the spread within our communities in our schools. And so our intent is to maintain full time in-person learning for all students. We haven't received any indication from state agencies, Superintendent Reykdal that there's a consideration about changing to remote schooling. We know that the governor made a proclamation an emergency proclamation last school year regarding the mental health of our youth across the state of Washington, and so in that we know that students benefit from in-person learning when that is best for them for health and safety reasons and so we are excited to welcome back our students.
Another question that we get at all levels, is what will lunch look like for my child? And it's important to note that given so many different factors at each individual school, there may be nuances and differences from school to school and that could be neighboring schools or schools across the district. And so right now our school teams are all currently developing a plan to implement lunch in accordance with state guidelines. We know lunch will look different given logistic space constraints and staffing levels. It's also important to note that students aren't masked while eating and because of that our teams are looking at what are the spacing options that we can implement using different spaces, expanding lunch periods and thinking of other ways to accommodate. And so your schools will be communicating with you about what the lunch program will look like at your school, but those are some of the general parameters that we've asked our schools to think about as they are planning for students to return.
The question we also get is can my student eat a snack and drink water in the classroom? As you may know, last year the guidelines were different than they are for this school year and last year we weren't able to allow for snack or drinking of water in the classrooms. This year, with the updated guidance from the Department of Health, schools do have the ability to allow snacks and drinking of water in the classrooms given some additional constraints. And we know that our schools will put systems in place to be able to accommodate those constraints for our students.
Questions around busing? Are there any additional requirements or things that I need to think about when my child rides a bus. And there's kind of two key points here. For those families that are offered transportation, it's important to note that we are required that all drivers and riders are masked during the entire bus ride. We also know that should there be an active case of COVID-19 on any bus that we have to contact trace for that. And implement the appropriate protocols. And so we will be implementing a seating chart for our school busses again. That will occur within the first few weeks of school once we get things up and running.
And the final frequently asked question that I want to reference is about will the district offer an online school. And so we are moving forward with an online option for both elementary and secondary. If you've looked into it you know that there are some distinct differences between our elementary version and our secondary version. These online schools aren't connected to the neighborhood schoolhouse. Part of this is because of staffing levels and things like that. But also we want to be able to implement both our in person learning and our remote learning with fidelity and excellence, and by separating it we’re actually able to accommodate that for our students and our staff, and so right now families can continue to go to our website. If you go to the home page of our website, hover over the schools tab, there is an online learning options for 21-22 if you are interested. For planning purposes, we do need to put a cut off to our registrations for this program. We have seen an increase in interest over the last week to week and a half and so we are going to close registration on August 24th at 11:59 PM. This will allow for a couple of things, one for the team to plan for the first day of school to make sure we have the appropriate levels of staffing and so that both students and families are acutely aware of where their first day will be.
I'm going to transition over to a slide deck. I have some visuals I want to share with you, and then I also do want to walk through the Department of Health Guidance that will provide information for you about some of the requirements that we have and then some of the changes that we have seen from last year.
So when thinking about decision making, it's important to understand that some decisions are locally generated, but there are other decisions that other entities put on us. And so there's kind of, I like to think about it, layered decision making and really lines of authority. I'm sure you have heard of the Center for Disease Control or the CDC. It's a federal agency that really thinks about public health at the federal level, thinking about our entire country. We have our Washington Department of Health that is that public health agency that really oversees all public health across the state of Washington. And then there's local public health agencies and for us it's the Seattle King County Public Health Agency, and then it gets to us here in the district. We have our COVID-19 safety plan. That really is about the planning and implementation of all of the guidance and requirements or local decisions that have been made. It's important to note who has influence or control over these different agencies. We know that the President has influence and control over the CDC. We also know that there's a few state level agencies that have influence or direct responsibility for both state Department and school districts. One is the governor's office. We know that the governor has implemented a state of emergency at the beginning of the pandemic. He has emergency authority in a variety of ways that has influence over the Washington Department of Health, but also at the school district level. As an employer, we also have to reference what's called L & I, Labor and Industry. They interpret the Washington Department of Health guidelines for employers. Given that we employ a large number of people, over 4000 employees here in the district. Both labor and industry have influence and connection with the Department of Health and the School District. But we also have another entity, and that's the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, that is Superintendent Reykdal, that also has constitutional authority to place some levels of requirements and expectations on school districts.
One way I like to explain like how were decisions actually made. First when you think about the school district we always look up in our decision making when we need to make a decision, we look at King County Public health and if they've provided guidance on a certain topic, then that is the guidance that we're required to follow. If they haven't provided guidance or maybe they've defaulted to the Department of Health, we go to the Washington Department of Health. And if they've given guidance on a certain item then that is what we follow as a district. And very rarely there are things that both King County or the Washington Department of Health haven't provided guidance on and then we would look to the CDC for that guidance. And so when you think about the different layers of agencies they are also making decisions that way too and always looking at that next line of authority for the guidance that's been made to determine, do they want to improve upon that guidance, modify that guidance for their local entity. And if no agency has provided guidance on a certain topic, that's when us a school district need to make a determination in decisions for the implementation of our COVID-19 safety plan. So it's important to know that that's just kind of how decisions are made, and how they get influenced and brought to the district over this last 18 months.
And so there's kind of four specific pieces that I want to talk about in regards to the guidance in their requirements. The Department of Health, they've updated their K12 school guidance really since last May. They updated in July again in August, and from what I hear, we're going to receive another update today. We also know that the governor has instituted a number of proclamations throughout this time I want to reference that also, our local health officer. Introduced. Masking directive just a few weeks ago, and superintendents and school directors across the state of Washington received a letter of direction and expectation from Superintendent Reykdal within the last few weeks out that I want to share some detail with you and so in the department of Health Guidance you can see they provide guidance and information around a number of different categories of which I'm going to go through. Many of these later in the presentation.
You know that governor Inslee's proclamations over the last 18 months have improved and modified over overtime currently, the emergency proclamation, that's in effect is 20 dash 20 14. It's the continuation of the state of emergency and what it does is it identifies level of levels of authority for a variety of areas related to COVID-19 for public agencies locations. And private citizens. And so we reference back to that as public school district to make sure that we are in alignment with the expectations of the Governor. We also know that our local health officer doctor Duchin he provided a local health officer indoor masking directive just a few weeks ago and that was in response to the increasing cases that were being seen across King County. But this really was in collaboration with health officers all across Western Washington and I believe has extended into Eastern Washington as well with local health officers asking for communities.
To think about masking again and so I just pulled a few specific pieces from Doctor Duchin's order. He says that everyone five years of age and older and King County should continue to wear a face covering when indoor public spaces and so that's just a piece that Doctor Duchin offered to King County. And then you can see the next two are they get even more specific everyone e in schools must wear a fitted mask. And adhere to Washington Department of Health guidelines for masking. And as I referenced before the current Department of Health guidelines requires students, staff and visitors to be masked. The directive goes onto to also reference that this applies to indoor spaces that are open to the public and then n he concludes his letter indicating that employers continue to follow the labor and industry or lni guidelines for workplace safety.
On July 29, Superintendent Reykdal sent a letter to all school district superintendents and school board directors and essentially what that letter says is we are required to follow the governor's emergency orders. Department of Health guidelines and labor and industry guidelines for workplace safety and a couple of pieces that I pulled from that letter number one explicitly clear that masking is currently not a local decision. And he says in his letter that these are critical public health actions, including masking for now are re not at the discretion of local boards or local superintendents He goes on in his letter to say that his authority to enforce that really is through the funding mechanisms that our state funding comes to us as a school district, and to quote him he e says, if school districts intentionally disobey the requirements of the Department of. Health, either state or local, or the governor's directives that school districts can expect to see an immediate halt to their basic education apportionment. Apportionment is the revenues that the state sends to school district. For our ongoing operations, and so Superintendent Reykdal was clear in his expectations of school districts.
So, transitioning to our health and safety planning, and so I'm just going to go through the Department of Health Guidance and just touch on some of the key factors that are embedded within that and it is publicly available for anyone to be able to read the totality of that information. And so I have talked about masking a number of times. I also want to recognize that masking does lead to a polarizing conversation at times. And my request to all of us as a community is to allow us as a school district to implement what we are required to implement. These are decisions that are beyond our authority right now, and so we do have to expect that our students when they are coming to school, that they will wear masks when required, and so you can see here, these are the same pieces that I've talked about that students are required to wear masks that staff are required to masks wear masks when students are present, or when students could reasonably be on campus are bus drivers and bus riders need to wear masks?
And that, even though the guidance states that outdoor masking isn't required, I again want to strongly urge families to think about what does that mean for the congregating spaces that are recessed spaces are lunch spaces when students are socializing and unvaccinated These are things that should be strongly considered as a family because we know that. If we need to quarantine students that takes away from their opportunity for that person. Learning that we know is valuable for them We also know that current labor and industry guidelines has different rules for staff. When students are not present and so will continue to follow those with our staff. And so I've just listed here in this presentation will be publicly available with these links and so I just listed some of these different pieces that I referenced before that you might find interesting, including Superintendent Reykdal's Video. Recorded statement around his expectations around masking.
Physical distancing is something we all got very used to a term we got very used to over the last year and the physical distancing requirements as caused us to have to think about our in person learning differently last year. And so the Department of Health has updated their guidance and they are very specific that the requirement of school districts is to provide in person full time learning for all students in our school district that desire to have that as their learning. Mode and so physical distancing requirements should not ever prevent the school from offering full time in person learning to all students and families in the fall and so we have taken that approach as we are thinking about our school spaces. The guidelines state that ideally we're maintaining physical distancing of three feet or more between students in classroom settings and then it goes on to use the term to the degree possible, and that refers back to the overarching physical distancing requirement that it can't prevent us from offering full time in person learning, and so currently our schools are working through the process to space our classrooms with h this in mind, knowing that. 3 foot distancing can't be a barrier to offering in person learning for students, and as you can see that last bullet their schools ability to do this will depend on the age of students develop developmental and physical abilities and the availability of space, and another piece is the different types of furniture that we have in our classrooms. Knowing that not every classroom has the same exact furniture and so again as a as as a parent as a staff member. We all need to be aware that one schools implementation of physical distancing may be different than another schools but one e grade level at a school or one department at a schools Implementation of physical distancing could be different than another grade level or department within that same school, and so a lot of it is contextual understanding g the space the students age and furniture that are available in that space for physical distancing. And so just to recap p physical distancing in the classroom is 3 feet to the greatest extent possible, and then the guidance goes on to talk about physical distancing outside of the classroom.
And so we that currently the y the CDC guidance has a different language and guidance around school lunches then our department, Washington Department of Health has currently provided and so as I said earlier we go to the closest line of authority for our guidance, and so for us we take the Washington Department of Health Guidance and that is what we are implementing. Even though there is information from the CDC that helps. About mitigating strategies for school lunches so you can see on this slide that maximizing distance between students to the degree possible during lunch in common areas, and during high risk activities is the expectation they do not state a specific distance They expect that we work to maximize that distance because when you think about a lunch, we know that the typical 6 feet of distancing when students are unmasked as what we were. Implementing last year in our schools are working through how they can maximize the distance in all of those spaces when students return. The Department of Health goes on to identify ventilation as a key strategy, and so it's just important to note that our schools in our district currently is exchanging the indoor classroom air 7 times each hour, which is a rate that goes beyond the standards that are expected during COVID 19. And so we have that in place with appropriate filtration and whatnot for our classrooms and classroom error. You may also remember last year there were very strict protocols that we were to follow for hand hygiene and other hygiene etiquette activities they have e backed off the guidance around being very prescriptive around hand washing and things like that, but as we appropriate hand hygiene and other hygiene etiquette such as sneezing into the sleeve of your arm and things like that. Those are always good practices and should always be considered with our students because it's important that students develop those habits because those are truly lifelong habits that we want our students to have, and even when we transition out of this pandemic, we want our students having those hygiene protocols in place because that will continue to keep them healthy and safe, and so the guidance does go on to ask that we provide time and. Opportunity for students to wash hands before and after high risk activities. One of the things that the Department of Health Guidance updated based on some. Some research some e pilots that were done across the country in terms of indoor classrooms and the definition of close contact.
As you may recall, the definition of a closed contact previously for students was being with within 6 feet of a student or of an individual for 15 minutes over a 20-hour period indicated that person was a close contact. Given the research and the pilots, the Department of Health has reduced that close contact definition down to three feet. If both students were wearing face coverings or masks and other r prevention strategies were in place and that does this allows us to us to consider close contact differently which also allows us to have keep students in schools for in person learning for more of the time. What they found in those pilots and studies was that if students were masked and if other prevention strategies were in place, that the spread of the virus just wasn't occurring at that 6-foot level, and so that's why they reduced it down to that 3-foot level.
This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults the same e definition of a 6 foot is in place for close contact for adults. In the word quarantine e is something we heard a lot last year, that's when someone is expected to remain outside of a setting, either a workplace setting or a classroom setting away from others for a specific and recommended period of time while they're infected and contagious. And so. It's important to note that close contact definition is important in terms of quarantine, but the Department of Health is also updated their guidance regarding individuals who may not need to quarantine, and So what they've indicated is that close contacts who are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms, and those that's a key factor as well, that those that are symptomatic would not qualify here. But if you're fully vaccinated and you do not have symptoms. You do not need to quarantine, but should watch for symptoms and get tested. If symptoms do develop and if symptoms develop, then that individual would need to go into a quarantine, but they've also updated it that a close contact who has had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past three months and has recovered does not have symptoms would also not need to quarantine, but again need to watch for symptoms if they become symptomatic. Would need to quarantine and get tested.
So that wraps up the content around our COVID-19 planning or planning for this school year I just want to go back to those commitments that I referenced earlier in this presentation as a school district we e continue to be committed to the high quality and teaching and learning for every student that we will continue to implement The health and safety protocols for our students Our staff, because we know that's how we can keep people safe and healthy and our students learning in person to the greatest degree possible. We also are committed to recognizing. The personal, social, emotional impacts of the last 18 months and we are committed to actively addressing issues of equity across our school district. And our focus will continue to be on each and every student each and every day. So with that, I'll wrap up this presentation. Thank you for coming and participating, I hope this helps provide some clarity as we transition into the 21-22 school year. We can't wait to see you on September 1st. Thank you.