Dear Northshore Families,
Together, we navigated our first week back from winter break, continuing our Northshore tradition of excellence in instruction and learning, thanks to each of our dedicated staff, students, and families. At the same time, we continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of our students and staff, (under the direction of the various health departments we are responsive to and within OSPI guidelines and the Governor’s proclamation).
I want to provide you with an update on important information regarding the COVID-19 Omicron variant and our current response so we can all be prepared in case a school needs to be closed due to high rates of COVID-positive cases or staff absences due to illness. I want to be clear that all of the work we are doing now is with the goal of the continuation of in-person learning. We will need to continue to work together in the coming days and weeks.
The Omicron variant is highly contagious and we are experiencing a major surge in the number of cases. We are not alone. Districts across our region and country are responding to record numbers of cases. Again, it is up to each of us to slow the spread. The first and possibly most important step for each family and staff member is to stay home if you have any symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Washington State Department of Health, the following steps are ways in which each member of our community can help support the health and safety of students and staff:
- Get vaccinated, including a booster shot (Learn more about clinics hosted in the Northshore School District or the surrounding communities.)
- Testing (Learn about our testing program. If you opted your student out of batch testing, please consider contacting your principal, school nurse or office manager to opt your student back in.)
- Avoid large gatherings
- Continue to wash your hands regularly
- Wear masks properly (This is a legal mandate and required on all Northshore campuses.)
- maintain a social distance from others
It will take all of us working together to keep our schools healthy.
How will the Northshore School District decide whether to change to remote learning?
Keeping in mind that our great district spans 60 square miles, three cities, and two counties, we work with three health authorities, the Washington State Department of Health, Public Health Seattle & King County, and the Snohomish Health District. The decision to temporarily transition a specific school or the district to remote learning will be based on either the direction of one or all of the health authorities or the Northshore School District’s ability to have enough healthy staff in the school for the learning to continue. Currently, the Health Departments do not plan to provide us with a clear metric to use for this decision and have shared the expectation that we collaboratively look at each school situation on a case-by-case context. I assure you that we are looking at a data dashboard of all cases in the district and are continuously focused on our best possible response for each school at any given time.
Preparation is a responsibility.
While we endeavor to keep every school open, it is prudent that we are ready for any possibility. In this case, we must prepare for a temporary transition to remote learning in the event it should become necessary. Thanks to voters who approved our 2018 Technology Levy, every student has access to a computing device. Due to the quickly rising numbers, school staff and families may not have the luxury of receiving extended notice of a pivot to remote learning. Instead, we must all be prepared. Our Technology Department is working with each school to make sure all students have their devices, and teachers are asked to make sure those devices travel to and from school with the students each day. We will continue to utilize the online tools and learning management systems that were used last year, including Zoom and Schoology. For those whose computer devices are left at school, there will be a subsequent distribution of the devices. I understand closing a classroom or school on short notice due to such unpredictable factors may present a hardship for some families. My intent is to continue providing transparency and clarity about our plans and decision-making so each of you will consider what you and your family will need to transition successfully in the event this becomes necessary.
If a school needs to close, the plan would be for it to remain closed for 10 calendar days before reopening. That would mean two days for teachers to prepare and eight more days. There are grade-level appropriate plans for both synchronous and asynchronous activities and lessons for students on the two planning days. Should pausing in-person learning at a school become necessary, the building will be closed for all students and staff and it will be cleaned. For now, high school athletics (gyms) will stay open if the school closes but all other after-school activities in that building will cease.
I want to stress that staff in all of our schools and departments across the District are working hard to keep the District open – some are working around the clock. At this time, our intent is to continue in-person learning, while we make decisions on a school-by-school basis about pausing in-person learning as necessary due to health and safety concerns or available staffing levels. There are no current plans for a district-wide closure.
As you might imagine, I have been receiving a number of questions about what we are doing to protect our students and staff while maintaining a continuation of in-person learning. To that end, I will host a webinar for students and families on Wednesday afternoon from 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm. Please plan to attend if you have questions, concerns, or thoughts to share; together all things are possible.
It is more important than ever for us all to work together to support our students and one another. We are One Northshore !!
All the best and take good care,
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.