School board to consider reopening strategies, superintendent

Sequim School District leaders look to further outline aspects of how to safely re-open its classrooms to in-person instruction while clarifying its lead administrator role next week.

Because of the Jan. 18 holiday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), the board shifts its regularly scheduled Monday meeting to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19.

School board directors will have a chance to review what acting superintendent Jane Pryne calls a “comprehensive Reopening Handbook” at the meeting, she noted in a Jan. 8 district-wide email.

While Sequim’s in-person instruction plans have not been announced, Gov. Jay Inslee on Dec. 16 set a clearer path toward re-opening Washington public schools, starting with elementary school-aged students in areas where new coronavirus rates have dropped below a daily average of 350 cases per 100,000. Regions with 50 or less COVID-19 cases per 100,000 can open n-person instruction at all grade levels, he said.

On Jan. 11, Clallam County was at 143 cases per 100,000 over the previous two weeks.

“It is time to begin the process of getting more of our students back in the classroom,” Inslee said in mid-December.

Previously, Inslee set a benchmark of 25 cases per 100,000 (or below) to reopen schools.

While state laws give local school boards authority to make their own decisions about opening and closing schools, most Washington public school buildings have been closed as districts shifted to remote learning.

The governor said about 15 percent of the state’s 1.2 million K-12 students are receiving a form of in-person learning, as of mid-December.

Pryne said the Sequim School District’s Reopening Handbook will be available for the public viewing once the board approves it.

For Sequim’s elementary school students, Pryne said that in-person instruction could come as early as late January.

“We have been diligently planning a start day of January 26, when second semester begins for our elementary students,” Pryne wrote in the district email. “This is of course dependent on cases continuing to decrease and the availability of the vaccine.

“The district is also working with local agencies for the moment vaccines become available to all staff within the Sequim School District. This raises our level of confidence against fighting the virus as well.”

Opening up classrooms for older students in more problematic, she wrote.

“The plan for students in grade 6-12 to return to in person learning has proven to be extremely complex,” Pryne wrote. “Some of the challenges include class changes and grade level overlap as well as passing periods. We continue to monitor infection rates and vaccination availability before committing to a definitive date with these students.

“We miss our students tremendously. Our secondary staff is working diligently to connect with students and their families to provide individualized support.”

Clark contract considered

Board directors also look to resolve a two-month-long investigation into a complaint that has superintendent Rob Clark on paid leave.

The board on Jan. 4 delayed a decision regarding a possible decision regarding the contract for Clark, superintendent of Sequim schools for the past year-and-a-half, but with some details still yet to be worked out board directors agreed to remove the item from the Jan. 19 meeting.

At the Jan. 4 meeting, the board did agree to extend Pryne’s contract through Jan. 20.

District leaders have declined to disclose details regarding the complaint.

Attend the “virtual” meeting by getting the link at the school district website (www.sequimschools.org).

Levy talks

School district leaders are busy distributing information about two upcoming levy proposals, with Pryne talking up the plans at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, on KSQM 91.5 FM, and 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, on Newsradio KONP 1450 AM. Additional levy talks are set during meetings with Sequim Rotary (Jan. 22), the City of Sequim (Jan. 25) and Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Voters on Feb. 9 will consider a four-year, $15 million capital projects levy to address a number of building issues, as well as a four-year, $29.7 million levy that replaces Sequim’s current local tax and pays for core learning functions not supported in state’s basic education formula.

Taxpayers in the district would pay between $1.87 ($1.24 for the EP&O levy, $0.63 for the capital projects levy) and $1.89 ($1.26/$0.63) per $1,000 of assessed value starting in 2022, district officials said.

Residents in Sequim School District boundaries should be receiving a levy information through mail starting this week, Pryne said.

See a video offering school district news online each week at www.sequimschools.org.

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