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Superintendent's Message: Full return to school planned for fall

Dear MISD Community,

As we close the 2020-21 school year, thank you to our community for your support in this year of the pandemic. What a joyful time it was to watch our Mercer Island High School Class of 2021 graduate in our own stadium.

The year has been full of changes to the way we have delivered education, but we have kept to our core value that students are the priority. Our District's mission, vision, and values expects each of us to promote and model life-long learning, thinking, equity, inclusion, safety, collaboration, and the whole child. 

Most importantly, thanks to you and our staff, we kept our students safe. To date there have been no known COVID-19 cases traced to inside our schools and Mercer Island continues to lead King County in vaccination rates. We look forward to returning to school full time, five days a week beginning Sept. 1.

Many of you have asked what school will look like in the fall. Will students and staff be wearing masks, or still practicing physical distancing? The current guidance  from the Washington Department of Health (dated May 13) says yes, but we expect updated guidance soon as the state prepares to fully reopen. But we know now there will not be required daily health attestations. We can’t thank you enough for your incredible patience as we dealt with frequent changes in guidance from the state.

As we move forward and this pandemic begins to be seen in the rear-view mirror, we need to continue to reflect on lessons learned during this year of constant change. We need to question what have been the “silver linings” in this crisis and how they will impact our work moving forward. 

As our students return to their classrooms full time, we must meet them where they are. They will not all be in the same place, either academically or socially or emotionally. The District is in the midst of planning for academic, social, and emotional recovery next fall. In April, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) provided school districts guidance on creating an Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan that is required to access funding to support students. The MISD plan addresses equity and inclusion, students’ learning recovery, and mental health support. This plan was submitted to OSPI. Over the coming year, these documents will change, as we consider our progress and alterations to our path. 

For our students, the only world they know has been turned on its head and the economic, political and social ramifications of this time will create ever-expanding ripples throughout their lives. This year we have taken major steps forward toward identifying and systematically removing barriers that impede students’ equitable access to learning and growth opportunities. 

By removing barriers to educational access, students will be able to access learning that meets their needs, no matter their “identification” or “program.” With our inclusionary practices grant from the Washington Association of School Administrators, the District has made great progress this year implementing a multi-tiered system of support built on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We are dedicated to our value of creating inclusive and equitable learning settings for all students.

We will keep you updated on our planning for the 2021-22 school year. Have a wonderful summer, see you back in school on Sept. 1!

Donna Colosky, Superintendent