Dec. 18, 2020
Dear MISD Families, Staff and Community,
We are headed into winter break with tremendous momentum and optimism about the second half of the 2020-21 school year. With our continued preparation, no COVID-19 cases yet traced back to any of our schools, and updated guidance from the state, the District’s planning will be set into motion in January.
The MISD staff and elementary schools are ready to bring our kindergarten students back on January 6 as planned. The Early Childhood program successfully and fully reopened at Northwood after Thanksgiving, which makes us confident kindergarten will be a success, allowing us to remain on schedule and bring first graders back on January 19. The kindergarten and first grade re-entry will drive decisions about the timing of bringing back the remaining elementary grade levels.
Each of the previously published COVID-19 mitigation and intervention strategies remain in place, including the expectation that students and staff adhere to the six-foot physical distancing requirement as much as possible. Due to classroom size (square feet) and student enrollment (number of students in each class) constraints, second through 12th grade students will be phased into a hybrid learning model in February and March.
Students will attend school part of the week in-person with about half of their classmates and participate remotely via Zoom for the other half. The hybrid model will begin with second and third graders and evolve as outlined in the revised guidance from Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Please watch for a survey in January to families in grade bands of 2-5, 6-8 and 9-12 regarding your family's decision to return to in-person hybrid learning.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced updates to the school reopening Decision Tree, now renamed Toolkit to Prepare for In-Person Learning. The Governor shared new data and research showing schools are reopening safely when the mitigation strategies outlined in the Toolkit are implemented. The District has demonstrated its ability to act in accordance with the health and safety expectations this fall and will continue its efforts until all six schools reopen in one form or another.
The state significantly revised the COVID-19 incidence rates for districts to consider when making decisions about who to prioritize in-person learning for and further clarified that districts should consider test positivity and trends in cases and hospitalizations to inform decisions around in person learning. DOH suggests three categories for re-introducing in-person learning.
The updated guidance recommends that districts phase in-person learning for younger learners and those with the highest needs, which is exactly what we are doing now. Once MISD demonstrates the ability to limit transmission for the first grades brought back to in-person learning, we will accelerate forward and bring in the next grade band of learners.
Small groups of our highest need students, including those furthest from educational justice, will continue to be served in-person at all levels. Our athletic small groups will continue and we will be adding small groups for extracurricular activities such as band, orchestra and radio.
Seeing the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine being administered this week has given all of us hope that this pandemic will be ultimately controlled. But please, as you enjoy winter break, continue to wear masks and limit social gatherings outside of your own household. We must all do our part to follow the Governor’s Safe Start Plan. If you must travel, please follow all of the recommended mitigation strategies. Getting and keeping our students into school for in-person learning takes all of us. It is critical as students are returning for in-person learning that the health attestation is reported accurately by all those attending. It is ultimately our own actions that will help reduce the rate of transmission as well as get and keep students back in school buildings.
Have a safe and healthy Winter Break,
Donna Colosky, Superintendent