Learning Forward Updates

  • September 3, 2021

    Thanks for a great first week!

    Dear MISD Families, Staff and Community,

    Thank you for a joyful first three days of school! Today was the first day for our kindergarteners. The class of 2034 (!!!) is now in our buildings. We have loved seeing the pictures you’ve shared on social media with the #MIFirstDay2021. 

    We know there continues to be concerns about safety and the potential for transmission of the virus in our schools. Thank you to the more than 500 who watched the safety webinar on Monday, and it is posted here on our MISD YouTube channel. The MISD 2021-22 COVID-19 Response Plan is supported by all of our staff to keep our schools safe.

    We will continue to evolve and adapt our procedures to keep our students and staff as safe as possible. The schools made adjustments even this week based on what we learned after just a few short days. 

    This upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend, which this year coincides with the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah holiday for those celebrating, is typically a time where many of us gather with others outside of our household. There is a concern that this year that Labor Day weekend may result in an uptick of COVID-19 cases in the community. 

    Though our mitigation measures have been proven to be effective while in school so far, the activities we engage in outside of school impact our ability for all of our students to remain in full-time in-person learning. Remember, students are on campus for only about 20 percent of the time during a typical school week. We need your help in safeguarding against COVID-19 infection during the other 80 percent of our students’ week. 

    Thank you for your continued flexibility as we have navigated changing requirements from our state and local health authorities. Over these first few weeks of school, we hope you will continue to share in the joy from having our students back in-person. 

    Have a great weekend and stay healthy,
    Donna Colosky, Superintendent
    Fred Rundle, Deputy Superintendent

     

    August 30, 2021

    Superintendent's Message: Welcome to the 2021-22 School Year

    Dear MISD community, 

    Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year! We are excited to welcome students back to school full time beginning Wednesday for grades 1-12 and Friday for kindergarten.

    During the past 18 months we have been laser-focused on safe and healthy schools for students, staff and families. Here is our updated COVID Response Plan and Frequently Asked Questions, posted on our COVID-19/Learning Forward site at mercerislandschools.org. Please note that these will be updated whenever new guidance is received from the Washington state Department of Health. As with any opening of a new school year, school sites evaluate plans and make adjustments accordingly. 

    We continue to focus on safe and healthy learning environments, but now must also direct attention to educating the whole child and learning forward, even as the pandemic continues. This focus is even more relevant as we strive to foster hope, healing and well-being for our students.Together, we  continue to grapple with the impacts of the past 18 months.  

    As educators, we must center our work around knowing our students by name, strength and need. In 2018, the Board adopted our values, vision and mission statements into  policy (BP 0001), which continues to center our work on students as the priority and educating the whole child. 

    During the 2020-2021 school year the Board worked on revising the Fundamentals. They were reduced from seven to five and encompass what are the essential expectations for our educational system and each student we support. Below are the Fundamentals that drive MISD as educators. 

    Student Focused Fundamentals

    In accordance with the values, vision and mission stated in Board Policy 0001, the District will strive to achieve the following fundamentals, goals and objectives:

    1. Create a personalized learning environment where differentiated instruction, student-centered education, and varied learning opportunities are responsive to students’ strengths, needs, interests, and passions.  
       
    2. Maintain the highest learning standards in the areas of fine arts; health and physical education; English language arts; mathematics; financial education; science; environment and sustainability; social studies; world languages; computer science; and educational technology.
       
    3. Develop self-awareness, empathy, emotional/social intelligence, responsible decision-making and citizenship.
       
    4. Engage students in analytical and critical thinking in order to identify and address global concerns.
       
    5. Foster and embrace diversity, inclusiveness, and equity with a focus on respect and acceptance of every student.

    Educating the whole child is the goal which can only be achieved through supporting  the “whole village” - staff, families and community working together. Education is a continuous process of learning and development both instructionally and systemically. This is hard work - but valuable.This is not “one more thing on the plate” but it is the plate.

    As we head into this new school year, a huge thank you to our maintenance and operations crew, who have again this summer performed a tremendous service in preparing our facilities for the new school year, enhancing the learning environment for our students. Rooms have been moved and reconfigured, carpets cleaned, floors waxed, grounds spruced and cleared, as well as maintaining all of the facility health and safety recommendations. Their work over the past 18 months has kept our facilities safe and healthy for everyone. 

    Last week we welcomed 38 new certificated and 15 new classified staff members! We are glad to have them as part of the MISD team. We look forward to learning and growing together in support of all of our students.

    Here’s to a new and safe school year of learning for all! As you post those first-day photos this week, please include #MIFirstDay and tag us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

    Respectfully,
    Donna Colosky, Superintendent

    August 9, 2021

    Update on COVID-19 response and the 2021-22 school year

    Dear MISD Families,

    We hope you are having a wonderful summer break! We look forward to returning to school full-time, five days a week beginning Wednesday, Sept. 1 for grades 1-12 and Friday, Sept. 3 for kindergarten. Please visit our Back to School information page which includes all the important details for the start of school.

    We wanted to update our families on our ongoing response to the COVD-19 pandemic and plans for the new school year. Over the summer, the District has been monitoring the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) and Labor and Industries (L&I) guidance updates related to COVID-19. Like last year and consistent with the Governor’s most recent proclamation, the District will continue to follow the DOH guidance. The most recent guidance gives us complete confidence that we will be returning in-person on a full schedule this fall. 

    Face Coverings and Masks

    All staff, students and visitors must continue to wear face coverings/masks indoors and while riding school buses. Students may remove face coverings to eat and drink, and when they are outside. (This is currently being discussed and defined for our students at all three levels.) As Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal made clear in a statement recently, wearing masks in school is not a local decision, it is a state mandated requirement, regardless of vaccination status.

    Other Mitigation Strategies

    Along with wearing face coverings/masks, the DOH guidance includes layered mitigation strategies of physical distancing, improving ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfecting, staying home when sick and seeking evaluation, including testing as indicated, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, responding to cases of COVID-19, and meeting the reporting requirements to public health. 

    Please use the following links to access the most recent guidance documents: K-12 WA DOH Guidance from July 28, L&I Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19 from June 30, and the WA DOH K-12 Sports Document. Additional updates to guidance and requirements for extra and co-curricular activities are forthcoming. When reading this guidance, please be aware that it will likely change many times throughout the year, including before the start of the 2021-22 school year. 

    Quarantine Expectations

    The most impactful change for staff and students alike this summer is that fully vaccinated persons who are determined to be close contacts of someone with COVID-19 are no longer required to quarantine so long as they remain symptom-free. However, with the highly transmissible Delta variant present in the region, any student, teacher, or staff who reports COVID-19-like symptoms at school will be immediately isolated from others and sent home and referred to diagnostic testing as soon as feasible. If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they may not return to school for 10 days after symptom onset, or 10 days after a positive test if no symptoms are present.

    Vaccinations

    The guidance directs school districts to verify student and staff COVID-19 vaccinations. We are currently doing that as part of the Review Student Verification Process (RSVP) for families and for MISD staff. Vaccinations are not required for students or MISD employees, however we know from Public Health - Seattle and King County data that 92 percent of those living on Mercer Island ages 12-plus are fully vaccinated and more than 95 percent have had at least one dose.

    We still do not know when kids under 12 will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. We do know that both Pfizer and Moderna are currently running clinical trials for kids, and we are hopeful that Pfizer will be approved before the end of the year for children 11 and under, with Moderna following soon after. Pfizer is expected to submit for emergency use authorization in September for children 5-11 years old, and for children 2-4 shortly thereafter. This could mean a vaccine would be available as early as this fall – but the time frame can easily shift sooner or later. For the latest updates, please visit Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination for Children and Teens webpage.

    We will continue to update families on any changes in the guidance from the state. 

    Respectfully,
    Donna Colosky, Superintendent
    Fred Rundle, Deputy Superintendent