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Edmonds School District adopts hybrid of online and in-person classes for fall reopening

By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

Students in the Edmonds School District will get to determine how they wish to receive instruction this coming fall, choosing between learning entirely virtually from home or coming to school on certain days of the week.  

Unable to accommodate six-feet of distance between all students and staff, a requirement issued by state and local health officials, the Edmonds School District (ESD) has announced its prospective reopening model on July 8, with plans to introduce a combination of in-person and virtual instruction. 

In the hybrid model, students will be divided into cohorts, their group determining what days they would be on campus. Students will be placed in groups labeled “A” and “B, where group A will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, while group B will be at school on Thursdays and Fridays. 

During students three days off-campus, they will participate in remote virtual learning. Alternatively, families wishing to keep their children at home may choose a learning model operating exclusively online. 

“It’s important that we plan for all of these scenarios and also provide families [with] options,” said ESD Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas. “The hybrid model allows for the district to maintain social distancing and strict health requirements whilst still allowing for some in-person instruction.”

Those who choose the hybrid model will return to the classroom with social distancing measures in place, with a face-covering requirement, frequent handwashing, as well as temperature checks, to demonstrate the district’s ability to fulfill virus mitigation efforts required by the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). 

On June 11, OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal issued guidelines on school district reopening requirements grounded in findings related to hygiene, physical distancing, and other public health considerations provided by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A district’s readiness to follow safety measures recommended by health officials ultimately determines if its schools can open on a modified or hybrid schedule, says OSPI spokesperson Katy Payne.

“This is directly related to the steps we, as a community, take to combat the spread of the virus,” said Payne in an email. “If we aren’t wearing our face masks, staying physically distanced from others, avoiding gatherings, and taking other steps recommended by the health experts, then our opportunity for in-person learning is diminished.” 

Maia Espinoza, Reykdal’s current opponent running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, says that schools should reopen in the fall if perceived as fit to their community. Districts need to implement CDC guidelines to get children learning and socializing again, advises Espinoza. 

“Handwashing stations, keeping surfaces clean and other methods to diminish the spread of germs as recommended by the CDC should be implemented,” said Espinoza. “Students and teachers should stay home when sick and schools might consider going online for a period of time if the virus begins spreading, in the same way, we have done during flu season.”

Balderas stresses that the district will only provide in-person learning opportunities if health recommendations and requirements support it when the academic school starts in September.  

“We will be following strict guidelines from our state and local health departments to make sure we have the proper health protocols in place to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe in an in-person learning environment,” said Balderas. “We will only allow in-person learning if it is safe to do so.”

If health circumstances dictate that school are unable to safely reopen or will need to shift into an online-only model during the school year, the district is preparing ‘Continuous Learning 2.0.’, a revised alternative of the learning model implemented in late March, following ESD’s in-person coronavirus induced school closures through the end of the previous academic year. 

“We, along with the rest of the state and country, were dealing with unprecedented times. We did everything we could to provide learning opportunities for students through emergency remote learning,” said Balderas, reflecting on the spring’s remote learning model. “We know it was a hard time for students and families. We are taking the lessons we learned and the feedback we have heard to do a much better job.”

In the spring, when learning was exclusively remote, the district ensured that every student had a district-issued Chromebook. For the upcoming year, all students have been or will be re-issued a computer to complete their schoolwork. ESD is working to support and provide resources to families without internet access, says Balderas.  

On Friday, July 17, the district sent out a  Back-To-School 2020 Intent Survey, asking families to share whether they would like their student enrolled in in-person or fully remote learning, Balderas explaining their responses “are critical to our planning processes for starting the school year this fall.”  

“We are focused on our students. We are committed to providing them the best educational opportunities we can as we also deal with a worldwide health crisis,” said Balderas.

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