Sequim High graduation set for June 19

Graduation will look a little different for Sequim High School this year, but it has a date and a location.

Sequim schools superintendent Dr. Rob Clark said Monday that the district has been offered and will use property at Security Services Northwest, Inc., on the east end of the city.

The ceremony will be a drive-in held 6 p.m. on Friday, June 19, at 250 Center Park Way.

“The D’amico family is really stepping up and providing a great opportunity for our kids in this situation,” Clark told school board members at their June 1 online meeting.

About 200 students are expected to graduate from Sequim High this month.

Sequim’s Olympic Peninsula Academy, an alternative learning program within the district, will host a relatively small “drive-by” graduation for its five students at the Sequim High sports stadium on West Fir Street on Friday, June 12, Clark said; a time has not yet been announced.

Graduates will social distance while family and well-wishers will drive by, honking horns and waving, Clark said; it’s expected to take about 20 minutes.

EP&O, capital project levy, bond talk

While the Sequim School District’s Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy doesn’t run out until the end of 2021, Clark said he’d like to see Sequim try to ask voters to extend that local support this November.

“You can’t function as a productive school district with a double levy failure,” Clark said at a May 26 board meeting.

He said that while the school board has ultimate say in what goes to voters on ballots, he’d like to see Sequim ask for an EP&O levy along with a capital projects levy to fix a number of building issues throughout the school campuses.

Generating support for one or two levies may be difficult during a health crisis, Clark said, but, “the whole pandemic situation and general inability to get people out… may change by November.”

The district could run one levy or the other in November and the other in February 2021, but Clark said voter fatigue or confusion might inhibit passage of the second measure. Board president Brandino Gibson agreed.

“Many of the voters will say, ‘Didn’t we just vote for this?’” Clark said.

“I’m tempted to agree to trying to get this passed in November,” board director Larry Jeffryes said.

Board member Brian Kuh on May 26 said he’d like to gauge the activity and interest of Citizens for Sequim Schools, the citizen-led group that traditionally organizes support for school levy and bond proposals.

“It would take revitalizing that (group),” Clark said, to support levy drives. “It’s hard to imagine a campaign during a partial quarantine.”

A week later at the June 1 board meeting, Clark said he wants to see if the Citizens group can be reactivated as the district looks toward placing a ballot measure before voters.

“For us to run a ballot measure in November, or for that matter February (2021), we have to reorganize or rejuvenate that organization, or create another completely different organization,” Clark said.

Clark and Sequim School Board directors noted the recent double levy failure by the North Mason School district (one in February, another in late April) that will necessitate about cuts of $4 million in operations and 18 teacher positions.

Flu plan

School district nurse Sonja Bittner said the district is as prepared as it can be at this point but more supplies — including personal protective equipment (PPEs) — will likely be needed if/when school reopens in the fall.

Following her annual health report to the board on June 1, Bittner said the district is making adjustments to follow the stringent state guidelines for day care facilities.

“If we can completely meet all the requirements for day cares which are the most stringent ones … we can then be more prepared to meet them for school,” she said. “I think the lack of PPE is one of the biggest concerns.”

The district might have to have staffers taking student temperatures on each bus or at the entrance to each school, Bittner said.

The district would also need to have plans in place if a student is suspected of having COVID-19, she said.

Bittner advised board directors that the district should order plenty of hand sanitizer, up to 180 gallons worth in addition to what the maintenance department orders, along with 80-90 cloth masks that could be reused.

Federal funds considered

The Sequim School District is getting about $700,000 in federal funding for the 2020-2021 school year, but how that money is spent does not yet have parameters and likely could not be used to help retain staff positions that the district expects to cut, Clark said.

Clark told school board directors at a May 26 meeting that the funding that legislators passed as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March will likely come in July.

“We need to use that for COVID-related expenses,” Clark said.

While that could conceivably be personnel, those staffers would be dedicated to COVID-19 situations.

“We can’t use that to back-fill one of the positions that was laid off,” Clark said.

On May 11, the district approved a plan that would eliminate 1the equivalent of 11.2 full-time certificated staffers. Reductions would come from all school levels, including elementary (4), special education (2.4), middle school (2.0), secondary (1.8) and administration (1).

At the time of the directors’ 4-1 vote, eight staffers had let the district know they would retire, resign or ask for a leave-of-absence, and since then Clark said another district staff member let officials know they would not return next school year — dropping the overall cut to certificated staff to just 2.2 FTEs.

The CARES act earmarks $30.7 billion under an Education Stabilization Fund for states to spend on education, including $13.2 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund.

Grading plans

The board agreed to a grading system for students at high school grade levels receive either an “A” or an incomplete.

“Our goal throughout these unprecedented times will continue to be creating equitable and engaging learning opportunities for all students,” SHS administrators said in a memorandum to SHS students, families and staff.

According to the the memorandum, students receive an A grade if they “remain engaged in standards-based learning opportunities assigned by their teacher(s) to their best ability.”

An A does not indicate that a student has mastered 90 percent or better of the content/standards in a course, as previous grade standards imply, but rather that the student has engaged in learning standards being taught throughout the school year, the document explains.

“During the 2019-20 Semester-2 grading period a grade mark of ‘A’ is not aligned with ‘traditional’ views of this grade mark,” it reads in part.

Students get an “Incomplete” of they “did not engage in any standards-based learning or activities assigned by their teacher(s),” the policy reads.

Students would not earn an “Incomplete” grade if they were passing a course on March 16, the day before Sequim schools closed and in-person lessons shifted to remote learning.

By June 5, if a teacher has determined a student should receive an “Incomplete,” that teacher would set up a conference with their supervisor to review the student’s performance. If a grade remains an “Incomplete” after this review, the school would send a letter to the student’s home detailing the “Incomplete” along with a plan for the student to receive an “A.”

Students who receive an “Incomplete” will have an option to appeal this decision and will be able to complete work through the summer and fall semesters of 2020, the policy notes, a when progress is demonstrated the student’s transcript will be adjusted to reflect an “A” grade.

“Remember, these are unprecedented times, consequently our grading practices should reflect these times,” the policy reads.

Other board action

Rosaylnn Buxby, a fifth-grader in Brittney Rothwell’s class, took top honors for the cover design for Helen Haller Elementary School’s yearbook, directors noted on May 26. Board directors helped with the final vote.

Board directors on May 26 thanked Payton Sturm, a Sequim High senior and graduate-to-be headed to Baylor in the fall, for serving as a board student representative for the past two years. She said that while teachers were working hard to help, finishing her senior year remotely has been difficult. “(It’s been) extremely hectic … it’s a weird time,” she said. “Getting help when I need it (is a challenge); I can’t just go and see my teacher. I can shoot them an email but it’s just not the same as being there.”