Reopening schools update

July 29, 2020

Dear staff and families of Battle Ground Public Schools,

It is with great confliction that I write this message. Every year of my 38 years as a history teacher, principal and district administrator, I have spent the first day of school in a building full of students. Last night at a work session, I recommended to the school board that we join with other Clark County districts and begin this school year on Sept. 2 with full-time remote learning for all students.

My recommendation includes a plan to transition to in-person learning based on the phase that Clark County is in. In this plan, the district would begin to plan for hybrid learning in Phase 3; and transition to hybrid learning in Phase 4. In-building support could be provided in earlier phases to small groups of students, such as those with special needs, who need additional assistance. As the situation is evolving, we will be flexible; we could use other health metrics to determine the return to in-person learning if the state recommends. The board will consider the plan at its meeting on Aug. 10.

As you are aware, community transmission of COVID-19 is prevalent in Clark County. The daily numbers of confirmed positive cases in Clark County have kept us in Phase 2 of the Washington Safe Start plan for nearly two months, and yesterday Gov. Inslee announced a statewide, indefinite pause on county applications to advance phases.

While we know how important in-person learning is to building the relationships that make learning more fun and engaging, we also recognize that having staff and students together in classrooms during this time of high transmission puts their health and safety at greater risk for contracting the virus.

The safety of our staff, students, and families is a top priority, and I am not willing to take a chance that our staff and families could be exposed to COVID-19 when alternative options are available to us. Remote learning would also eliminate the likely burden of continual and unpredictable classroom and/or school closures due to exposures to the virus.

According to our local health authorities and the most recent data, the safest option for all staff, students and families is comprehensive remote learning. Our district has been preparing over the summer to develop high-quality remote learning that will ensure students make progress on their academic goals and provide support for students and families. Students and families who choose comprehensive remote learning can expect

  • Reliable schedules that could include live instruction, pre-recorded video lessons, teacher office hours, and small group supports.
  • Accountability through graded assignments and attendance.
  • A robust and consistent learning platform (Google Classroom for middle and high school, SeeSaw for K-2, and a transition between the two for older primary students) for content delivery.
  • Streamlined communication.
  • Support for students with special needs, English language learners, homeless students, social-emotional needs, and parents and families.

The district also has invested in professional development opportunities for staff and online curricula and materials and technology infrastructure to support remote learning. We are also exploring options for childcare and providing meals to students.

Our other two learning models, River Online Learning and River HomeLink, would still be available to families and are outlined in our School Reopening Paths flyer.

Thank you to our families and staff for taking the most recent survey on reopening schools. While 50% of our families said they feel comfortable returning for in-person learning by Phase 2, just 25% of staff, who are at a higher risk than our students for contracting the virus, said they feel comfortable returning by Phase 2. You can see the survey results in the presentation at right.

I know there are still many questions about what the 2020-21 school year will look like. We are working with building leaders and staff to finalize our plan before we present it to the board, and will provide more detailed information about schedules and expectations in August after the board makes its decision about the start of school.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during the planning period. This is a difficult and emotional decision for me to have our students start remotely, but the health and safety of every person in our district is paramount. We will all face challenges in the days ahead, and we will get through them together.

Stay healthy,

Mark Ross, Superintendent
Battle Ground Public Schools

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