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Agreement reached on in-person hybrid learning timeline

Dear MISD families and community, 

This coming Monday, Feb. 8, is another milestone day in our “Learning Forward” timeline. The District will welcome the return of its 2nd and 3rd grade students to buildings for in-person learning in a hybrid model. Our teachers have been preparing their classrooms and participating in professional development related to serving students in-person while streaming to students at home. Though these educators  will join those working with our kindergarten and first grade students who continue to attend in-person five mornings a week, they are our District’s pioneers in this model. We could not be more thankful to them for paving the path forward for our District. With that, we ask our community for grace and support as our staff and students grow and learn yet another way of teaching and learning. 

2nd-3rd Hybrid Schedule 

The elementary schools have been working hard preparing for hybrid learning by assigning students in groups based on a previously completed survey. We are using four primary cohort groups: 

A – Attends In-Person Tuesdays and Thursdays, alternating Mondays

B – Attends In-Person Wednesdays and Fridays, alternating Mondays

C – Streaming/Remote Learning Full Time

D – Attends In-Person Monday through Friday each week (only assigned to specific students based on identified needs for services).

4th-5th; 6th-8th; and 9th-12th

The District has reached an agreement with its labor partner, the Mercer Island Education Association (MIEA), which represents both certificated and classified employees. Together, the District and MIEA have finalized a timeline that cautiously and safely expands hybrid learning to all grade levels.

Under the agreed upon timeline, students will return to buildings for hybrid learning on the dates below: 

  • 4th and 5th: returning March 1 
  • 6th: returning March 15
  • 9th and 12th: returning March 22
  • 7th and 8th: returning March 29
  • 10th and 11th: returning April 15

This timeline is in keeping with the Washington State Department of Health Decision Tree/Toolkit guidelines for returning to in-person learning. Separating each grade band’s return by two weeks will give the opportunity to continue to measure the success of limiting transmission of the virus within schools. We have had no COVID-19 cases traced to or transmitted within our schools since last September. We will only move forward with each phase of our reopening timeline after consulting with Public Health, reviewing data, implementing our mitigation protocols, and meeting the metrics as detailed by the state toolkit.

Families and students, especially in grades 10 and 11, will certainly wonder why these students are not starting until April. The change from a late-March to mid-April date was not easy, but here are some considerations we made when making this decision:

  • We had an interest in expanding  grade bands at school sites carefully with a  two weeks spacing in order to bring students back in a way that will hopefully lead to an uninterrupted schedule for the remaining of the year;
  • We felt that the incoming 9th graders would benefit from the leadership from our 12th graders and our 12th graders would have a couple of extra weeks in-person for their senior year;
  • April 15th is the start of the fourth quarter, so this is a natural point of transition following spring break; and 
  • With spring break falling in early April, the delay will only amount to the loss of three in-person days.

The District will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic metrics in the toolkit. As of Friday, cases have dropped to 188 per 100,000 King County residents over the last 14 days, below the metrics in the toolkit for bringing in high school students into the buildings. This is the lowest case rate numbers countywide in the past three months.

Staff Vaccinations

The District is actively exploring local vaccine clinic partnerships for its employees. The state has announced a partnership between the state and health care provider/insurer Kaiser Permanente to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to all K-12 school employees when vaccine supplies become available. The state plan is designed to be ready when school personnel become eligible under Washington state’s phased vaccination timeline.

When 50 percent of eligible Washingtonians in Phase 1B Tier 1 have been vaccinated or our state moves to 1B Tier 2, all K-12 school employees who are eligible under Tiers 2-4 will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Under current state guidance, school employees who meet the eligibility criteria in Phase 1B Tier 1 can currently receive vaccinations.  

Help Keep Us On Track

As we approach the mid-winter break (February 15-19), a time when many families typically travel, the District asks our families and staff to please adhere to the advisories issued by state and federal leaders. We believe that schools play a critical role in our community and the MIEA and District are working diligently to return our students to the buildings for in-person learning in a way that is safe for both staff and students. 

Though we have a settled timeline for return, that will be delayed by increases in COVID-19 activity level or transmissions in the schools. The reopening process for our schools depends upon everyone doing their part to improve the health and safety in our community.

Donna Colosky, Superintendent