NCW — Classrooms across the region won’t all be sitting empty when school starts in about three weeks, despite what appears will be a region-wide, if not statewide, remote start to the school year.
NCW — Here is a rundown of some of the back-to-school plans currently in the works for districts across the region. In most cases, districts h…
Some teachers will use the learning space much as they have in the past, complete with desk, bulletin boards and a daily schedule. They will deliver instruction to students online, but the classrooms will be prepped and ready for students.
“All staff will be expected to be on site if we are in a remote model when we start the school year,” Chelan Superintendent Barry DePaoli said of his district’s plans. The details are still being finalized, he said, but the basic guidelines are in place.
The Cascade School District in Leavenworth is proposing a similar scenario.
Teachers will have the opportunity to work from their classrooms, said Superintendent Tracey Beckendorf-Edou, all part of the “continuous learning” model designed to allow students to shift between remote learning and in-person, face-to-face instruction as needed during the pandemic.
“I think it’s important for the public to understand that when school is taking place under a model of Continuous Learning, staff are working very hard,” she said. “It is not a vacation for them and they are working extraordinarily hard to establish and sustain relationships, promote student learning, and make positive differences in students’ lives.”
The classroom connection is one of the details starting to emerge as school officials from Leavenworth to Orondo and Quincy to Manson move to finalize back-to-school plans. Child care options and opportunities for in-person instruction also are being explored.
Wenatchee and Eastmont schools announced plans early last week to start the year Aug. 26 with all online instruction. Other school districts in Chelan and Douglas counties are moving in the same direction, citing the increase in COVID-19 case reports and advice from public health officials.
Most districts report they are anticipating further direction from the state superintendent and governor sometime early this week that likely will resolve any uncertainty about the initial steps.
All districts would prefer a face-to-face start, said Michelle Price, superintendent of the North Central Educational Service District, which provides support to all 29 school districts in Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan and Grant counties.
“The only reason a decision to open remotely is happening is based on the regional spread of the virus and the risk to students and staff,” she said. “Districts would rather be able to bring in small groups of students for direct instruction, academic support, social and emotional connections — all critical to the healthy development of a child.”
Since that doesn’t seem to be an option, the districts are moving forward with remote learning plans that will shift later to face-to-face instruction. The plans are custom-fit to each district, building on the lessons learned during emergency school closures this spring, she said.
“Districts have been surveying their community, holding stakeholder meetings, and working with their staff on what went well and what didn’t with the emergency transition to remote learning,” Price said. “Literally turning on a dime from in-person instruction to remote was no easy task for staff, parents or the children. What we have heard is that there needs to be more opportunities for direct instruction by the teacher and that time must be robust, structured and consistent. Two-way communication must be intentional and scheduled. Grading practices must give students the message that what they are working on matters and is important for them to accomplish at a high standard.”
Districts also are offering tech training and support for parents, as needed.
The hope is the remote option will be short-lived.
“This virus and the response to it has citizens across our community torn,” Price said, with debate over the balance between personal rights and public health. “The spectrum runs from fear of leaving the home to thinking this is a hoax and everything in between. Our districts must find a way to meet their families where they are and communicate what the CDC guidelines are that they must follow to provide for a safe learning environment for students and staff.”