WA schools will remain closed this school year

WA schools will remain closed this school year
Posted on 04/06/2020
April 6, 2020 COVID-19 full school year closure

Dear Tahoma families and staff members,

Today, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that school buildings will not reopen this school year, in order to help in the battle against COVID-19. The school year will end on June 19, as Tahoma and other school districts continue to provide remote learning programs to students.

Inslee said he made the decision based on “clear epidemiological evidence,” and after hearing from superintendents, educators, parents and students from across the state. Without these restrictions, the rate of infection will overwhelm the healthcare system. “We simply cannot take the chance of reopening school buildings,” Inslee said. “We cannot risk losing the gains we have made after the peak of this pandemic has passed.”

"This closure is guided by science and is our greatest opportunity to keep our kids, educators and communities safe," Inslee said at a news conference Monday afternoon. "If there is any opportunity to bring students back for a few days, including graduation ceremonies for our seniors, we will continue to explore that option. That opportunity will be guided by our collective behavior and the success we can achieve with the choices we make today."
Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said that while buildings will remain closed, learning will continue. Both leaders acknowledged issues of equity around students who are learning English as a second language, students receiving Special Education and the need to improve internet connectivity for families.

“These next two months will be tough. I won’t diminish that. However, learning must continue,” Reykdal said. “It will look different than we are used to. It will be more flexible, and it will evolve as we learn more and gain experience in the tools available to us.”

Washington families, community members and staff have watched as other states have announced closures for the remainder of the school year, and wondered whether it would happen in our state. Tahoma’s administration and district COVID-19 task force have been simultaneously implementing immediate efforts (implementing the free meals program, beginning childcare for healthcare and first responders, distributing computers and starting a remote learning program) and working on long-term planning. After Inslee’s action today, Washington is the 14th state to extend the school closure through the end of the year.

Incoming Tahoma Superintendent Mike Hanson said the governor’s decision is necessary but also represents a loss for students and staff.

“We are so disappointed for our students, staff, and community,” Hanson said. “We realize the magnitude of the governor’s decision, and are ready to play our role in returning society back to a healthy state. We understand the loss for many, especially our seniors, represents experiences and opportunities that can’t be replaced. Please know that we have been engaging with families, students, and staff to identify appropriate alternatives to some of these missed events.”

Hanson said the closure decision will require Tahoma to continue its work to build remote learning programs. “We, as a community, have a major undertaking. We have created a new approach to learning for our kids in a short period of time. As we navigate through this change, we will continue to modify and adjust as we learn in the new environment,” he said. “We acknowledge that change can be uncomfortable but new experiences can also be exciting. We know that each household is unique and that experiences for our kids will not be identical. For all of our families, we are grateful for the patience you have shown our staff as we have rapidly changed the way we are serving students.”

Here is our current status:

*Remote learning will continue. We expect the system to continue to evolve as we work to educate our students and offer needed support. Students in grades K-2 will use the Seesaw platform, while students in grades 3-12 will use Google classroom. School principals have provided, or will provide, details about remote learning to families and students.

*High school seniors will receive support from guidance counselors on opportunities to earn and document credits they need for postsecondary transitions. Districts throughout the state are working with the college system to ensure smooth transitions.

*All events, sports and activities remain canceled. We are talking with students and families to brainstorm alternate celebrations, and will update students and families when we have information to share.

*We are awaiting information from Gov. Inslee about whether school facilities will be open to provide summer school.

*Superintendent Reykdal emphasized that he and other leaders are committed to improving connectivity for families across Washington to assist with remote learning; both increasing access for families and improving the connections for families with poor connectivity.

This change affects daily life for each of us in tremendous ways. We are encouraged by the way that the Tahoma community has pulled together in the past weeks. In the months to come, please continue to watch out for each other -- in person for your own families and, for those you can’t see right now, reach out via text, FaceTime or email to let other parents and community members know that you care.

Tahoma has implemented three programs that we intend to continue to operate as long as staffing and resources allow. They include:

1. Free meals for children ages 18 and younger Monday through Friday (including this week, during Spring Break). Meals are available from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lake Wilderness Elementary and from noon to 1 p.m. at Tahoma High School. Deliveries to children who do not have transportation also will continue.

2. Childcare for healthcare professionals, first responders and grocery employees.

3. Mental health support: Students (or parents/guardians of students looking to help their child) needing emotional support may email our support line at TSDCounseling@tahomasd.us. This is not a crisis line. For more information, click here.

Here are some resources that may be helpful as you discuss the full closure of schools with your children:

https://medium.com/waospi/talking-to-your-children-about-school-closures-aeb3e6be6456

https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/helping-children-cope-with-changes-resulting-from-covid-19

Information and updates are available on the district website at www.tahomasd.us or via email at TSDMessages@tahomasd.us. Or, if you would like to call, please leave a message at 425-413-3477.

We thank you each for the continued partnership that families have maintained with our teachers, staff and administrators throughout this crisis. We’ll continue to contact you with important updates as the situation evolves.

Thank you,

Interim Superintendent Mike Maryanski
Incoming Superintendent Mike Hanson
Assistant Superintendent Lori Cloud
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