Brian Wharton

2016 File Photo — Brian Wharton is the Yelm Community Schools superintendent.

The opening of a school year always brings excitement and energy as teachers and staff welcome students back to school. 

In Washington schools this fall, 94 percent of the students open the year with remote instruction. Yelm is included in that data. Regardless of the medium of instruction, we are absolutely committed to providing great service to students, while also preparing for when we can safely bring our students on to campuses. I am happy to report that we are off to a very positive start to the 2020-21 school year. 

Since last March when the pandemic hit, our staff committed to building their skills in providing remote instruction. It isn’t the same, but we have learned so much in the last five months about how to bring successful in-person classroom strategies to the online environment. Most of our teachers have been training continuously since March to build expertise in creating an engaging online classroom, learning tools for student collaboration, and developing new ways to build relationships and effective methods of assessing student work. 

In the first few days of the new year, we have focused intensely on building relationships and making sure families are connected to learning resources. 

We will have more than 5,500 computers in the hands of students. 

We have been working urgently to help families connect to school networks, and we will help those qualified access state programs for internet services. I am very proud of our technology rollout across our 10 schools. 

Just before Labor Day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would continue to support free meal distribution to any student. 

We will work very hard to expand food distribution so all can benefit. Please check our website and Facebook page frequently for information about distribution sites. 

Lastly, we know we didn’t have sufficient parent resources last spring. I am extremely proud of our response to that need. On our website, under the Safe Start to Success tab, parents have access to videos, frequently asked questions and helpful tips on how to support their students in the remote classroom. 

We have tried to anticipate every possible question and need. We have also created a bank of help-desk staff members if families need person-to-person support. 

Without a doubt, we would prefer to be serving students on campuses and in classrooms. The recent COVID-19 data is trending in a positive direction to where we can resume planning for in-person instruction. 

When safe to do so, we will excitedly welcome our students back. 

Thank you to all of our community for supporting what I believe has been a very positive, albeit different, opening to the school year. 

•••

Brian Wharton is the superintendent for Yelm Community Schools. 

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