Dec. 23 Superintendent's Update

Dec. 23 Superintendent's Update
Posted on 12/23/2020
Dear Tahoma families,

We have been making significant progress on the work that must be completed in order to bring elementary students safely back to campus. As always, you will play a critical role in making this a smooth transition, so I am writing to you today to both share information and ask for your help.

First, it is important that I provide some background information so that you have a real-time update on the headway we have made so far and the critical step that comes next.

As you know, our School Board made a decision early on to rely on the guidance of Washington State Department of Health and Public Health of Seattle and King County officials so that we could ensure our students, faculty, staff and community were safe.

Last week, that department updated its school “toolkit” (formerly called the Decision Tree) based on emerging research and data gathered by state and national officials. The changes that were made allow us to bring back our youngest learners in small groups of up to 15 children at a time, independent of King County’s COVID-19 rates.

Tahoma remains firmly committed to providing our students an exceptional education, and we know that in-person instruction does just that, so it is no surprise that we are very excited about the updates. In fact, we have spent many months building a safety plan so that we would be ready for this opportunity when it became available. Families will have a choice in returning to in-person instruction or remaining in the remote learning model.

That said, in order to comply with the guidelines, our school day will need to look a little bit different when we return. Specifically:

*Kindergarten through 3rd grade students will return to campus first, near the end of January. The exact date will be announced as soon as possible. We will communicate directly with preschool families about the preschool model.

*As conditions allow, 4th and 5th grade students will begin slowly phasing in a couple of weeks after K-3 students.

*In order to keep our group sizes small enough, students will be assigned to either the morning session (8:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.) or the afternoon session (12:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.).

*During students’ off-campus school hours, they will complete follow-up activities from their in-person lessons and will engage in remote learning with specialist teachers (P.E., music, STEM, etc.) and any reading or math assistance instructors they are working with already.

*Elementary siblings will attend the same session in order to best support our families.

*Families will be assigned to either the morning or afternoon session based on their neighborhood’s transportation schedule. We will make sure this information is available to families before we open the survey. There may be some limited ability for families to request the other session, assuming they can provide their own transportation.

*Bus transportation will be provided for both the morning and afternoon sessions.

*Before school care (EEP) will be available for morning session students and after school care will be available for afternoon session students. Additionally, we are putting together a list of childcare options in our community and will have it available as soon as possible.

*All students and staff will wear face coverings, wash their hands frequently and follow social distancing requirements.

*Elementary students will not eat lunch at school, but we will provide “grab and go” meal service.

*As required by the Department of Health, prior to coming to school each day, families will need to submit a quick, 1-minute form confirming that their child does not have any COVID-19 symptoms.

*We anticipate having Tahoma’s COVID-19 testing program in place for staff and students by January 11th so that any staff or student who is showing symptoms will have access to optional, free drive-through testing located at Tahoma High School.

We know that there are a lot of factors that will go into your family’s decision about whether or not your children will return to school or remain in the 100% remote learning model and so, while we are eager to finally see our Tahoma students walking the halls of our building again, we are committed to continuing our 100% remote learning option this year as well.

And that leads me to the request for help I mentioned earlier!

Next Wednesday, you will receive a commitment survey asking you to tell us whether your student(s) will complete the rest of the school year in-person or 100% remote. As a third option, you may opt to have your child stay with his or her current teacher, in whichever model that teacher is assigned (if possible). We will also ask those who intend to return to in-person learning whether they intend to have their student ride the bus. Selections will be in place for the rest of the school year, and changes will be limited to available space.

This is critical information, which will enable us to begin making any necessary adjustments to our current class lists. Once you receive the commitment survey, you will have until Jan. 6 to make your decision and submit your choice. Please complete that step as soon as you are able. (The survey will be open until Jan. 6).

For those of you who also have secondary students, we anticipate our secondary hybrid model will remain on a 2-day per week, A/B schedule. We plan to survey secondary parents and guardians about their preferred learning model for secondary students in the later part of January.

As always, I am continually grateful for your support and partnership this school year. We are so much stronger together.

Appreciatively,

Mike Hanson
Superintendent
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