District plans late April transition to Blue Stage/full-time, in-person learning for elementary and middle school students; high school to remain AM/PM in-person for remainder of school year
Walla Walla Public Schools is targeting a late April transition to the Blue Stage of its Safely Reopening Schools plan which includes resuming full-time, in-person learning for elementary and middle school students currently being served in the AM/PM hybrid model. Preschool students will continue in half-day sessions with their current classmates and teachers, however, the district will implement full day, on-site opportunities for specific families. High School students will remain in the current AM/PM hybrid model through the remainder of this school year with the expectation full-day accommodations be explored for specific, struggling students.
“This decision did not come lightly as the school board deeply reviewed the opportunities, logistical considerations, and student, staff and parent feedback,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith.
When considering high school, a class schedule audit performed by staff revealed that 55 classes currently maintain traditional class loads in excess of 30 students. After review, a majority of the current circa 1967 classrooms at Wa-Hi can only accommodate approximately 25 students at the strict 3-foot distance requirement. To implement full day programming would have required the immediate hire of many temporary staff and the rescheduling of a large number of high school students to different classes/teachers.
“When weighing this impact, in addition to other implications reviewed and the fact that the high school community just transitioned back 14 school days prior, a strong majority of the Board did not feel that this disruptive transition outweighed the benefit of a full day experience for the remaining three dozen school days left in the year,” noted Smith.
The late April timeline for the elementary and middle school transition provides sufficient opportunity to address logistic and communication needs and time to prepare for the 3’ social distancing accommodations for the nearly 200 elementary and middle school classrooms.
“There is critical planning that needs to occur at the building and program levels to ensure a supportive and seamless transition for students,” said Dr. Smith. “It provides the crucial time necessary to communicate with parents and address some of the logistical implications around matters such as nutrition services, transportation re-routing, and coordinating afterschool programs and opportunities that will now be made available with the return of full-day learning across elementary and middle school campuses.”
Superintendent Smith says the school board is confident the plan being put in place will maintain safety and provide students with the programs and supports needed to be successful.
“With all staff having the opportunity to be fully vaccinated by mid-April, availability to provide on-site COVID testing, the district's ability to control on-site spread of COVID since reopening in January, the significant feedback from elementary and middle school parents, and the ability to bring back after school programming and activities for students, the school board felt very comfortable affirming it's prior-adopted Roadmap that transitions students to the Blue Stage/full time learning for elementary and middle levels,” said Dr. Smith.
School officials will be busy planning, coordinating and communicating with students, parents and staff in the coming weeks. Parents will receive information via mail, SchoolMessenger notifications and other forms of communication well in advance of this transition.