Local schools will begin teaching again this week — just not in classrooms.
As part of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal’s directive on March 23, public school districts around the state were required to continue educating students starting Monday, March 30, despite ongoing closures statewide due to the coronavirus crisis.
Some schools are already implementing new avenues of education, mostly through the use of the internet. But for other districts, those in rural locations with families who may not have reliable access to the internet, it’s a challenge.
“Although schools are closed and are not providing traditional in-person instruction, education must continue,” Reykdal wrote. “Further guidance will be grounded in compassion, communication, and common sense; rather than the traditional compliance measures we are all familiar with in our education community.”
Local school districts are now looking at a multi-pronged approach to replacing in-person teaching due to state-mandated closures, which are expected to last through April 24, if not longer.
According to a message on Rainier School District’s website, staff members plan on using multiple methods to keep educating students. Teachers will be pushing out activities and assignments through physical learning packets, Google Classroom, website postings, Facebook pages and emails.
“Our staff is very focused on creating creative ways to meet the needs of all of their students during this unique time. We totally understand that this type of remote learning does not replace the face-to-face instruction that a classroom setting provides but we all feel that it is important to continue the learning,” Superintendent Bryon Bahr said in a letter. “This is all new to so many, but the bottom line is that our students, parents, staff and community feel safe.”
The district has also recently implemented a grab-and-go lunch program, available at Rainier Elementary School on Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon.
Bahr wrote that principals are slowly beginning to rollout Chromebooks to families last week and again this week.
At Yelm Community Schools, a similar situation is unfolding.
“It’s important that we all understand that it is absolutely not a traditional instruction model,” Yelm Community Schoools Superintendent Brian Wharton said at a board of directors meeting last Thursday. “We’re working with our principals and with our teachers now to really collaborate to get those lessons out.”
This week, the district of nearly 6,000 students began distributing Chromebooks to families that need them. Wharton said the district plans on pursuing multiple avenues to teach, including using video conferencing software such as Zoom.
Wharton also noted that the feedback and data they’ve been getting from families has been trickling in, and they’re still working to gage what obstacles families might encounter.
“We’re anticipating that anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of our student population might need a different delivery platform than electronic, and we’ll have that data by the end of the week,” Wharton said. “And so, for those students, we’ll be examining if they have smartphone technology that will allow them to access the different tools that are available or do we have to go to a grade level by grade level and packet program that we’ll distribute.”
The Yelm school district currently has about 356 students set to graduate in about two months.
That segment of the student population will continue to collaborate with counselors and principals to make sure they’re ready for graduation, Wharton said.
OSPI will also open up the ability for districts to wave some mandates, such as state testing requirements, Wharton said. There will also likely be the ability to wave non-core credits, in order to help students who were on track to graduate.