Transcript of 7-23-2020 HSD Reopening Message posted to the HSD Facebook Page:
Hello HSD Families.
I am posting this message today because I know everyone - staff, students, and parents - has the start of the school year on their minds...
While I may not be able to address the How and What of the HSD in the 2020-21 school year, I can speak to the Why, Who, and When. The "Why"? I think we all know the purpose of public schools and the mission of the HSD: We exist to support and educate our students and prepare them for success throughout their K-12 education and for whatever it is they want to do after graduation. So we are undoubtedly focused on student learning. At the same time, we are responsible for the health and safety of not only our students, but also our staff and especially in the COVID era, our families.
The "Who"? I believe with all my heart that great schools are created when staff share their talents and do their jobs with dedication and care, when students do their part by learning and finding relevance in that learning, and our parents and community are involved and supportive. Regarding the parent factor, I again want to thank all of our parents for their participation on all of our surveys this spring and summer. The response rate has been incredible and your responses have given us feedback that is critical to planning. Over 770 parents responded to our last survey on behalf of nearly 950 students and a vast majority (75%+) of you communicated a preference for an in-person/hybrid format. But we also learned that the percentage of parents interested in online learning had increased from the percentage expressing a preference on a similar question in late May. That is very important to know because the online option carries with it staffing, logistical, and financial implications.
We are currently surveying - and will continue to survey - our staff on relevant topics and we are in the process of figuring out the best way to get our students perspective in the weeks ahead.
We are also developing FAQs for our families, but one recurring question I can answer right now is that students who opt for online learning can still participate in the activities that our schools offer.
Besides being your Superintendent, I am the spouse of a teacher and I am the parent of three school-aged children. So I get it. I understand parent, staff, and student concerns. I understand the impacts that reopening decisions will have on our school community. And I also understand that - ultimately ... but as early as possible - decisions have to be made.
I can tell you that we are working very hard with contingency planning and modifying these plans as conditions and guidance changes. I can also tell you that we are approaching this planning with a “CAN rather than a cannot” mindset. To be honest with you, every day I find myself asking “How are we possibly going to do this?” But I only visit that place...and I put myself back on the tracks going the opposite direction asking:
- Where are the opportunities?
- How can we get creative and design a new, more effective experience for students?
- What are we going to do to best support our teachers and employees?
- How can we lighten the load on our parents?
Our School Board has tasked me with looking at the best practices and plans that exist now and developing our own reopening plan that surpasses them. So that is what we intend to do.
Touching on the "How"?...I will say this, I am so grateful that in April our School board approved the purchase of nearly 1,200 Chromebooks with funds from operational savings from the COVID closure and, regrettably, from 2020-21 program reductions. These new devices - which just arrived this past Tuesday - are versatile, they fit seamlessly with our current Google suite of applications (e.g., GMail, Google Calender, Drive, etc) and they will support us well in either a hybrid or distance learning model. This purchase also enabled us to consolidate our most current generation of iPads from across our district for use at Hockinson Heights Elementary, which brings me to a big shout out to our PWT for their generous donation that will allow us to begin replacing some of those iPads with Chromebooks at the elementary later this fall.
Now, for the "When"? The HSD Reopening Schools Task Force will reconvene on July 28 to start processing our reopening plans. The goal is to have a draft plan ready to go for early August. That said, the state has set an August 19 deadline for submitting reopening plans. So modifications are possible until that date. And while it may not - actually it likely will not - look like a normal start to the school year, another goal is for school to begin on Wednesday, Sept 2 as scheduled.
Please be on the lookout for more video updates. I will post an update every week over the next few weeks. Thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I encourage everyone to stay apart to stay healthy. The lower our infection rate the sooner we can return to teaching and learning in person.