The start of the 2020-21 school-year is a little over 5 weeks away and Selkirk has intentionally delayed finalizing a fall reopening plan for school to give as much time as possible for regulations to settle. However, for the past six weeks we have been diligently working on strategies for fall. Selkirk’s goal for 2020-21 is an in-person four-day per week (M-TH) program for all students in grades K-12. For the past two months, we have participated in conversations regarding best practices and monitored guidance issued by the Department of Health and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). In June all schools were encouraged to plan for in-person programs for fall, however, the guidance included strict health and safety requirements. Our staff has been working to develop ways to meet those guidelines and keep abreast of the myriad of changes each week. New cleaning equipment has been purchased, safety features added, and classrooms rearranged to provide more space between students.
We were also encouraged to plan for short periods of shut-down in the event there are actual cases of COVID-19 in our student or staff population throughout the year. We would expect those closures to last about 2-3 weeks and teachers would provide remote learning material during that time. While that may seem disruptive, even if it happens four times throughout next school year, we will still have attended school more time than during 2019-20.
Some of the requirements we may need to follow this fall include parents assessing student health prior to school each day to insure all students are symptom-free, students wearing masks on school buses and possibly in the classrooms, and increased cleaning routines on buses and in buildings. While none of these conditions are ideal, familiar, or comfortable, our only other option at this point would be a full online program. An in-person program even with these health requirements in place seems infinitely better than an online-only option. At Selkirk, we believe we educate best in-person, so that is our goal.
There have been some parent concerns regarding a mask requirement and I hoped OSPI or DOH would make it optional for students by September 1. While there are still five weeks between now and the start of school, that does not appear to be the trend at this point in July. If masks are required, please know that students will have opportunities to take breaks including: snack and meal times, recess, active indoor classes (P.E.) and when classes are held outdoors with social distancing factored in. Elementary teachers are already planning outdoor class time as much as possible. Selkirk is a great place for students to learn and I am confident staff will handle this topic with just as much understanding and compassion for students as any other safety issue. If masks are required, there may be some exceptions for students who have exemption notes from their doctor or for students with disabilities who struggle with the concept of masks. Face shields may be more comfortable for some students and could also be an option in classroom settings. We hope parents understand if the final plan requirement includes face coverings that we are committed to working with students and families to find a comfortable solution.
As information continues to change each week, we are waiting until mid-August to finalize our reopening plan. Again, our goal is in-person 4-days per week with as much compliance of the reopening requirements as reasonably possible. If the governor, OSPI, or Department of Health make the determination to close our district, we will offer an online option to families, but until that point, we are planning to see students beginning August 31 with a program full of the positive experiences students and families have become accustomed to from a Selkirk education.