School district superintendents in Clallam County are moving forward with the initial transition to hybrid learning models in advance of returning more students to classrooms beginning in early October.
Sequim, Port Angeles, Crescent and Quillayute Valley school districts all plan to return a reduced number of students to campus locations, while Cape Flattery School District will reassess the potential return of students to its schools in Neah Bay and Clallam Bay at the end of the first quarter of remote instruction in early November.
Clallam County schools opened with nearly 100 percent online-only education, unlike Jefferson County public school districts which mostly used hybrid systems, because of high-risk infection rates. The changes correspond to continued progress at keeping the rates of COVID-19 transmission down in Clallam County.
Sequim School District Superintendent Rob Clark said students will begin to return to classrooms Oct. 12 via a staggered start approach in a Zoom presentation available on the Sequim School District website and at youtu.be/JdzFkl8NJwo.
“We are putting approximately 50 students in each one of our buildings. Greywolf Elementary, Helen Haller, Sequim Middle and Sequim High School,” Clark said.
“Those kids will go to school on an AA/BB schedule. That means if you’re child is an A they will go to school Monday and Tuesday. If you’re child is a B, you will go Thursday and Friday. We will use Wednesday for some catch-up and professional development and full-phased cleaning of our facilities.”
Clark said initial returners at each school would be drawn from criteria set by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“This approach prioritizes students most impacted by the loss of in-person services such as those with disabilities, those needing accommodations with 504 plans , English learners, students who are homeless, in foster care, migratory or who were not served equitably through remote learning last spring.”
Following the initial return, Clark said younger learners would follow.
“Who goes next? After a two-week interval (Oct. 26), we are bringing all of our kindergartners in, all of those who choose to go,” Clark said.
“Two weeks later we are going with first grade and see how that goes. We are going to be adding students into classes in two-week intervals so we can continue to ensure our staff’s safety and our student’s safety.”
Kindergarten students will be the first grade level to return to Port Angeles classrooms on an A/B schedule Oct. 5, with A students attending all-day kindergarten classes Mondays and Thursdays and B students Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will remain a distance learning day.
“We are making good progress in returning students to classrooms,” Superintendent Marty Brewer said.
“We have nearly 100 special education students already back two days a week, CTE (Career and Technical Education) students are coming back to campuses in small groups for courses, we have an educational partnership with the (Elwha Sklallam Tribe) and the next big step is grade-level implementation.”
Brewer said if rates of community transmission stay at recent low levels and there’s no evidence of community spread with the return of kindergarten students and staff, the district would then bring back first graders on a similar hybrid path.
“I’m hesitant to put a timeline on it …. Our hope would be two weeks [between grade levels],” Brewer said. “I want to be very cautious about setting timelines because there’s been a lot of disappointment. I know that’s hard to hear. I know that there is frustration in the community.
”I’ve been asked “Why just kindergarten? And I reference success…That’s why we we are being cautious and steady so we don’t have a setback. Right now we have success stories, special ed students, CTE kids back in our buildings. We need to continue that progression forward and it starts with kindergartners.
“Slow is fast right now.”