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Dear ISD Community -
The Issaquah School District, along with the School Board, are more eager than ever to move our kindergarten and 1st grade students to in-person hybrid learning.
In-person hybrid learning will begin Thursday, February 4, for those families that have chosen that option for their K-1 students. Three weeks following this return, they will be joined by our students in grades 2-3 whose families have chosen in-person hybrid. This aligns with a motion unanimously passed by the ISD School Board on January 14. Additionally, this complies with the latest framework from the Washington State Department of Health on returning students to in-person learning.
While we are incredibly proud of the work our educators, students and families have done to create and implement our ISD L.I.V.E. remote teaching and learning system, we know that, for many students and families, remote learning is not working well. We have heard countless stories about the negative impact of social isolation on our students’ mental and physical health. We are also aware that remote learning is causing tremendous stress on many families. We believe that in-person learning best supports student learning and social-emotional growth. Families and students who have a desire to have their students attend in-person hybrid learning should have that option.
We value our partnerships with the Issaquah Education Association (IEA) and all of our employee unions. The District has continued to bargain throughout the pandemic in an effort to determine how best to return students to in-person learning. Please understand that as the District moves forward with this plan, there is not yet a new agreement in place with IEA. We are continuing our labor negotiations and still remain hopeful that we will reach agreement on the plan to return our youngest learners in the coming days and weeks. While the District has begun the processes of implementing the return of our K-1 students on February 4, we have bargaining sessions scheduled that could cause an adjustment in our timeline for return.
In early December we reached an agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with IEA that would have returned K-1 students to school based on the COVID test positivity rate for King County. This metric was also used as part of the Washington Department of Health (DOH) Decision Tree provisions for in-person learning. Unfortunately, shortly after this agreement was reached the Washington State DOH and Public Health – Seattle and King County have not been able to record and post this data in an accurate and usable manner. Therefore, the metric is no longer viable to trigger the return of students to in-person learning. Fortunately, the MOU anticipated a possible update to state guidance and has a provision to discuss those changes. Those talks are ongoing. Ultimately, we believe an agreement on a plan with our employees will lead to the best outcomes for our students.
On December 16, 2020, DOH and Governor Inslee provided an updated framework, previously referred to as the “Decision Tree.” Based on this new framework, which calls for the return of our youngest learners under all levels of COVID-19 activity, the District and School Board have decided to move forward with our K-1 learners returning to in-person hybrid learning on February 4. We believe it is our responsibility to follow current health recommendations and bring our students back to in-person learning as soon as possible.
Running two school systems at the same time (both an in-person hybrid system and a fully remote system) presents many logistical challenges, including staffing challenges. As staffing allows, and based on districtwide parent responses, we will try to keep classes intact and allow students to remain with their teachers, but many students will not be able to stay with their current teacher and/or classmates. All ISD students will be taught by ISD teachers. Some students may be in a remote classroom with a teacher and/or classmates who are based in a different school within the district.
We care deeply about the health and safety of our students and employees. We will follow government public health guidance on how to best limit community transmission of the virus. We have worked hard over the last 11 months to secure adequate and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students, invested in infrared body temperature checking devices, set up barriers and signage where needed in our schools and implemented new cleaning and sanitation protocols.
The K-1 students who return to in-person hybrid learning will join the many hundreds of students who have benefited from some in-person hybrid learning or other in-person activities in our schools since last summer. By following our health and safety measures, only three cases of COVID have been linked to our in-person activities across the district since that time. We will continue to follow the same health and safety protocols when students return to our schools, including social distancing, required face coverings, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, daily attestations, and others.
ISD Students have attended the following programs in-person since last summer:
Later today we will send K-1 families more specific information about in-person learning safety protocols. Each elementary school will send K-1 families a link to their building-specific Hybrid Handbook for Families, which will contain specific health and safety protocols and expectations.
While this message concerns the return of our K-1 students, we continue to hold bargaining discussions around the return of our older students and will provide information as soon as we are able.
We recognize how challenging this pandemic has been for our families, and, most importantly, for so many of our students. We thank you for your incredible patience and your willingness to work with us as we take on the crucial task of educating and nurturing our students while helping protect the health of our community.