Recent survey results, representing feedback from nearly 2,000 Walla Walla Public Schools parents, provided district staff critical guidance as they begin finalizing fall 2020 reopening plans. Results from this recent engagement, in addition to three prior surveys representing thousands of respondents, a focus group interview with students, and 10 different workgroups consisting of dozens of staff and community partners, have provided a path forward as the district modifies in-person instruction this fall.
“The feedback received from parents and students will serve essential to our efforts as we work with our staff to finalize what fall will look like for students,” noted Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “The time we have taken to engage all of our stakeholders these last few months will help ensure we deliver the best possible experience, in the safest way feasible, come September.”
The strict, 6-foot social distancing mandate for all schools in Washington State will require significant modifications for most districts in order to comply. If the state social distancing restriction is not relaxed, Walla Walla Public Schools, like many public and private school districts, will be required to split-shift students to ensure mandated classroom capacity requirements are met.
The most recent survey revealed parents favored a morning/afternoon (e.g. AM/PM) split schedule, verses an every-other-day option. Additionally, questions addressing continued distance learning options for families and safety considerations for staff and students were asked. After two months of engagement efforts, the following fall reopening themes have been realized:
- If state social distancing restrictions are not relaxed, parents, staff and students prefer the AM/PM option over every-other-day
- Maximizing face-to-face instruction and daily contact with teachers and peers is a high priority
- The initially-proposed non-school day on Friday is problematic for many families
- If AM/PM scheduling is necessary, keeping family sibling on the same schedule is critical
- Concerns around childcare/daycare coverage when students are not in school remains a significant concern
- An option for continued distance learning will be necessary for some students and families
- Continued concerns over students who receive special education, qualify as an English Language Learner, or who were already behind their peers academically, may slide further behind in their learning
- Additional academic options and rigor for students at or above grade level should be made available
- Ensuring technology access for all should continue to be prioritized
- Social/emotional and mental health supports for students are important
- Enhanced cleaning and safety measures should be incorporated
The following considerations are being analyzed as district officials and staff finalize fall 2020 reopening plans:
- A Monday through Friday schedule for all families is being reviewed to address parent concerns over non-school Fridays.
- Parent requests for AM/PM selection will be sought before assignments are made.
- Every attempt to keep family siblings on the same schedule will be a top priority.
- In order to support sibling supervision, the district is exploring the possibility of aligning school start and stop times so that all students in either the AM or PM session have similar bus routes and pick up/drop off times.
- The district is exploring the feasibility for specific special education, English Language Learner and historically underperforming students to attend full-day sessions in order to address learning gaps.
- A 100% distance learning option for students and families will be available.
- To address technology, the district has finalized a comprehensive 1:1 computer program for students in grades 6-12, where each student will be issued a personal Chromebook. Additionally, an “equity at home” technology option for Preschool through 5th grade students will also be implemented. Under this program, the district will offer technology to families who lack at-home access. Both models will ensure a more robust engagement between student and staff and allow for additional learning opportunities.
Following coordination with union leadership, the district anticipates presenting fall 2020 reopening plans to the School Board during its regularly scheduled meeting on July 21. Communication and outreach efforts with families will immediately follow.
For more information, please visit the district’s Safely Reopening Schools webpage at: www.wwps.org/safely-reopening-schools