Message to Families: COVID-19 Planning Update

The days of Northshore’s Community-building have flown by! Today, marks the end of our first full week of school, and on Tuesday, we will welcome the autumn season. As the flurry of start of school emails have wound down a bit, I invite you to turn with me to think about our planning forward. I want to share how grateful I am for our students, families and staff – our community – for your resilience as, together, we navigate the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Our first goal was to start school smoothly and build community. Your commitment and positive attitude continue to be critical to everyone’s success in Our House. Every idea, every voice, every contribution matters. Thank you.

I want to start by sharing some encouraging news. Beginning Monday, September 21, we will move from a modified Stage 2 to a regular Stage 2. This means staff have the option to be onsite for the purpose of planning and delivering online instruction. At the same time, this Monday, we will also begin in-person contracted services for some of our students in greatest need of additional support as identified through an agreed upon set of criteria.

Additionally, I want to share more information on how decisions to move to more in person stages of instruction will be made and how I will be communicating those decisions. Moving forward, as we capture the rhythm of the year, I will be sending a short update on the learning model status every Friday afternoon. The update can range from us remaining in a holding pattern based on all considerations, to the fact that we are preparing to move to another stage. If you’ll remember in my overview of the process for returning to the classroom, the unpredictability of COVID-19 does not allow for us to just flip the switch. It will be more like a dial – and hopefully always moving in the right direction toward full in-person instruction in a safe and healthy environment.

Further, we are committed to providing preparation time for families and staff. When we plan to move forward from one stage to another less restrictive stage, we will give everyone at least a 2-week notice. If we need to backtrack due to COVID-19 spikes in cases, this could be immediate with very little notice, though we would try to provide as much notice as possible. Essentially, this COVID-19 does not follow calendars and therefore is not easy to predict.

We must remain mindful of key factors. Our district spans three cities and two counties. When decisions are made, understand that we are reviewing health department data from King and Snohomish counties as well as the state. The clearest explanation comes from Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health-Seattle & King County. She states, “While as of September 9, the King County COVID-19 case rate is 65 cases/100,000 residents over the past 14 days, Public Health—Seattle & King County (PHSKC) recommends monitoring this indicator for two more weeks to be sure that this trend is stable or continuing to decrease before implementing hybrid or in-person instruction.” She added that King County saw significant upswings in transmission rates after Memorial Day and July 4th weekends so being cautious is even more important given the recent Labor Day holiday. We will remain hopeful that the current trajectory of cases continues to be both favorable and sustainable.

On our newly created Decision Process page, you will see the different infection rate levels in the color boxes as provided by the Washington State Department of Health. In the corresponding boxes to the right, you can click the Washington DOH recommendation and the Northshore Considerations to understand the data and information we are reviewing as we make decisions. As appropriate considerations are favorable, we plan to increase in-person services according to the stages developed and shared this summer.

Currently, the Washington Department of Health’s decision tree recommends younger students be prioritized to return to schools for in-person learning because they struggle the most with online learning and are in a critical stage in their development. If the considerations continue to trend in a favorable direction, the next group of students to be served in person in the coming weeks would be students in greatest need of additional support, specifically in these programs:   

  • Pre-Kindergarten   
  • Functional Skills & Academics (FSA)   
  • Mid-Level (Blended, Sensory, Social Emotional)   
  • English Learners and Learning Center

All other students would continue distance learning. When any in-person learning resumes, our district will continue implementing our state’s Department of Health guidelines for anyone at the school (and in all of our buildings), which include requiring:  

  • Proper use of face coverings    
  • Physical distancing   
  • Keeping students in small, consistent groups (cohorts)   
  • Increased cleaning and sanitation   
  • Improved ventilation in buildings

We will remain mindful of the health and safety directives, requiring strict adherence to all health protocols. We are prepared to adjust the learning model as the situation dictates. I remain hopeful that we can all work together to practice safe and healthy protocols while we are away from the classroom so that we can welcome everyone back when it is safe to do so.  Please stay in touch as we plan forward and know that like you, we all yearn for the day we return to more of our traditional spaces and routines; together, all things are possible.

Until next Friday, stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy your weekend.   

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Northshore School District


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