Parent Update | 3.12.20

  • We are committed to providing you timely, accurate and complete information in the midst of the evolving COVID-19 crisis in our state and world. There is a lot of misinformation out there and we want you to have the facts as quickly as we know them. We urge you to read this email in its entirety. Please understand that information, guidance, and direction from the state and public health entities are changing daily. 

    In the past 24 hours, our team participated in a phone conference with Island County Superintendents and Island County Public Health staff, received a briefing on the Governor's conference calls with King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, and reviewed multiple reports of guidance from federal, state and local agencies. In addition, we communicated with the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) base commander, the Educational Service District, and several other school districts. 

    Here’s what we’ve learned and some decisions we’ve made:


    We learned today that Island County has its second confirmed case of COVID-19. At this time, we still do not have a confirmed case of a student or a staff member.  If there is an identified COVID-19 case in one of our schools, based on the guidance from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and public health, that school would be closed for 1-2 days for deep cleaning and sanitization and then reopen. We would communicate directly with families using email, text messages, robocalls, social media, our website, and our mobile app. Public health investigators will reach out to anyone they suspect has been in direct contact with a confirmed case.


    Anyone who has come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 will be asked to self-quarantine until they are tested and cleared. Public Health advises that you call your primary care physician if you think you need to be tested. They ask that you not go to the ER unless you are experiencing respiratory distress. Testing availability has expanded but still limited and not all providers have them. This is why you should call first. Turnaround time on results has improved to about 24-36 hours. Public health investigators will reach out to anyone they suspect has been in direct contact with a confirmed case. 


    Per our Governor’s direction, we have started contingency planning in case our district is directed by order of the Governor to close for an extended period of time. The Governor’s Office is asking districts to act in coordination with his direction for closures rather than act independently. At 2 p.m. today, the Governor ordered that all public and private K-12 schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties close for six weeks starting Tuesday, March 17. South Whidbey announced it will also close given a large number of their families that work or live in Snohomish County. 

    We are taking our direction from the Governor’s Office and Island County Public Health as well as OSPI and coordinating with NASWI. There is no order for us to close at this time. However, given the current spread of the virus, it is best to think of this as not a matter of if we will be directed by the Governor’s Office to close, but when. We urge you and your family to begin planning for this eventuality. While the confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in Island County are limited, as cases increase, so will the likelihood of a directed district closure in our area. 


    Based on the Governor’s briefings, this is what we know so far:

    1. District closures will likely last at least 6 weeks.
    2. State funding will continue to flow so that districts can continue to pay employees during a closure period.
    3. The Governor has directed districts in those counties to make school lunch available (similar to the summer lunch program) and asked districts to do what they can to provide childcare to healthcare workers and first responders. 
    4. Graduation requirements may be modified or accommodated.
    5. Mandatory statewide testing is expected to be suspended for all districts.
    6. Almost all missed days are expected to be waived so that school will end by June 19. 
    7. Districts are not expected to provide online learning during a closure. However, almost all districts that have closed are providing ungraded, supplemental learning activities for use at home. 


    We are still finalizing those plans. In the event there is an upcoming extended district closure, we will communicate directly with families using email, text messages, robocalls, social media, website, and our mobile app. We expect to offer free sack lunches at schools for all families (similar to our Summer Feeding Program) and hope to be able to offer childcare for children of healthcare workers and first responders at one of our school sites. 

    In terms of student learning, all of our students have public library access along with their wealth of online learning resources. We will make learning activity recommendations to families by grade level and provide access to other online learning tools. Chromebooks will be available to check out. Books and other physical resources can also be sent home, especially for those without Internet access. We understand that learning will not be as robust through this model, but we hope that families will take advantage of the learning resources offered. 


    We are canceling all events outside the school day that involve more than 250 people and may cancel other events on a case-by-case basis. Select concerts, performances or other events during the school day may be video recorded to be shared on social media. After school clubs and regular activities for students will continue for now. For a list of those events that are canceled, please review our website. All field trips and all-school assemblies are canceled. Facility use by outside users will also be suspended. 


    We are excusing all student absences and keeping students enrolled unless we know they’ve moved. Possible accommodations for absent students may include expanded make-up policies, extended deadlines, or reduced numbers of assignments. Grades will be delayed for absent students as needed. We must accept that learning will not be as robust through this crisis. 


    Starting Monday, March 16, we are making several changes to our school lunch program to reduce the possible transmission of disease. Modifications will be made to the salad bar and we will serve students fruits and vegetables directly rather than a self-serve model. We will be using packaged condiments rather than dispensers and packaged single-use utensils rather than silverware.


    Starting Monday, March 16, for the safety of both our volunteers and our students we are suspending our volunteer services for those individuals working directly with students. 


    We are continuing to teach and reinforce good hand-washing practices and social distancing (avoiding person-to-person contact). This is the best thing we can do to protect our students and ourselves. 


    Custodians are continuing their focus and efforts on sanitizing. Staff is using CDC-approved cleaning supplies in our schools and on the buses to regularly sanitize spaces, especially frequently-touched surfaces. We have three full-time custodians added to our current team specifically to provide deeper cleaning nightly.


    It is vitally important that we remain calm for our children and our families. Panic does not protect anyone nor do rumors and speculation. This is an unprecedented and serious situation and we must be extremely diligent in our response to continue to provide protection for our loved ones. 

    You can expect more communication from us in the coming days. We know this is a trying time. We are in this together and need to support and be patient with one another. We will remain in continuous contact with you throughout this crisis. Together, we’ll take care of our children and, together, see our community through this trying time.