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School Board Meeting Updates: September 10, 2021

Posted on September 10, 2021

The Issaquah School Board held a regular meeting Thursday, August 26 at the Issaquah School District Administration Building. The meeting was broadcast live on the ISD YouTube channel, and a recording of the meeting is available.

The following is a summary of the topics the Board and district staff discussed and action the Board took at the meeting. It is not an official record or meeting minutes. To review official minutes from all board meetings, please visit our board meeting archive webpage.

First Week of School Review

Superintendent Thiele provided a summary about the first week of the 2021-22 school year. Thiele began by acknowledging and thanking District staff for their hard work towards successfully welcoming students back to full time in-person school this fall. Cabinet Members also shared updates pertaining to the work of their departments.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Josh Almy gave an update on the district’s meeting with Learn to Return and our efforts in beginning COVID testing at District sites as early as next week.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Donna Hood shared the implications of testing on our HR department, as well as the work of verifying staff vaccinations. At this time more than 2000 of our 3400 employees have been verified. Currently, around 2% of our staff have requested exemptions to the vaccine mandate. HR is conducting a required one-on-one meeting with each of these individuals.

Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Dr. Dana Bailey shared that we are almost fully staffed in Special Services at the certificated level, and we still have large hiring needs in classified staffing, especially paraprofessional positions. Our Special Education Recovery Plan is in the works, and we are providing services before and after school as needed.

Chief of Finance and Operations Jake Kuper shared an update on district enrollment, varying class sizes, and the decision process behind developing a master schedule for a school site. He also shared that currently we are 48 students below the projected enrollment for the 2021-22 school year. Our District is in full compliance with staffing models and requirements with our average class sizes currently at:

  • Kindergarten: 17.5 students per classroom
  • First Grade: 17.8 students per classroom
  • Second Grade: 18.9 students per classroom
  • Third Grade: 20.5 students per classroom
  • Fourth Grade: 22.3 students per classroom
  • Fifth Grade: 23.1 students per classroom
  • Middle School, 6-8 Grades: 25.1 students per full time teacher
  • High School, 9-12 Grades: 25.6 students per full time teacher

The Transportation department is currently re-balancing bus loads, which is a normal start of year process that takes a few weeks. Additional variables impacting load-balancing this year include an enrollment drop of about 1500 students, the opening of two brand-new schools, and a nationwide shortage of bus drivers. We have hired a number of new drivers that are currently undergoing training, and anticipate they will begin driving students in early November.

Executive Director of Finance and Support Services Martin Turney shared an update on our Food Services department. As a district we are experiencing the impacts of a nationwide food shortage partially cause by food delivery delays, while also experiencing staffing shortages.

Discussion centered around the topics above and included further discussion around the following topics:

  • In the ISD how are individuals determining what a close contact is? Please review the eighth question down on the Safety Measures FAQ page.
  • The COVID dashboard is updated the first school day of each week to include both student and staff cases. To view the number of cases during the 2021-22 school year you can visit the dashboard.
  • Director Dr. Harlan Gallinger sought clarification on the development of the Districts vaccine database. To learn more about this specific topic listen here.
  • Director Sydne Mullings sought clarification on more specifics as it relates to COVID testing, specifically the three prongs the ISD is currently focused on. PCR tests are for our exempted employees, rapid tests will be available at all sites, and athletic testing is occurring in certain sports that are deemed high risk. To listen to more about this specific topic listen here.
  • Why aren’t we doing pooled testing and/or testing across the boards? Asymptomatic testing has not been shown to be effective, it is not a good use of resources, and there is a shortage of the tests themselves.

Discussion on Possible 2022 Levies

The last Levy the district ran in 2020 was just before the onset of the pandemic. Under normal conditions we would have begun a levy development committee this past spring to plan for running a February 2022 Levy. This has not happened due to the circumstances present. Discussion now is centered around determining if/when we will run for a Levy renewal. If the current Levy is not extended then the final collection would be late in the fall of 2022.

Timing and preparation are essential to the Levy planning process. Technology and Capital Projects departments have already begun assessing needs for updating and replacing technology, equipment, and/or facilities. To finish this preliminary work, develop a springboard, get a committee together, and run that committee the District will need between 60-90 days of preparation.

After much deliberation, the Board determined that there will not be a February Levy. Conversation will continue at the next Board Meeting around either potentially running an April or August Levy. Despite federal and state dollars not being able to support some of the programs we offer, we are grateful to share that thanks to the Levy in 2020 the following programs are able to have additional support in the Issaquah School District:

  • Career and Technical Education
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Early Childhood Learning and Preschool Opportunities
  • Special Education
  • Professional Development for Teachers
  • Safety and Security
  • Dual Language and Highly Capable Programs
  • Extracurricular Activities and Athletics
  • The new expanded High School Schedules at IHS and SHS

To listen to more of the discussion about possible 2022 Levies, listen on YouTube.

Legislative Matters

In this standing opportunity to discuss legislative activity pertinent to education, Director Dr. Harlan Gallinger shared that there were no updates and we will revisit the Elementary And Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) letter on a later date.

District Communications

As a friendly reminder, the Issaquah School District will send official District communication using only the channels listed below:

Other Facebook accounts or groups, websites, or media channels are not operated or endorsed by the District.

You can view recordings of this and other past board meetings on the ISD YouTube channel. You can also see future meetings on this channel or via Zoom. Check the District website for more information on attending meetings, giving public comments, or reading the minutes of past meetings.