Remote learning for students of all grade levels has been far from optimal. As Sammamish transitions into the new year, school districts are finally plodding a path towards welcoming students back into school buildings and implementing a hybrid learning model. This means students have the option of attending some classes in-person, while other classes could remain remote.
The Lake Washington School District (LWSD), Eastside Catholic School (EC) and Issaquah School District (ISD) all plan to follow the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) guidelines, which now acknowledge rigorous health and safety measures can limit the spread of COVID-19 in school environments.
DOH now recommends that schools phase in K-5 students for hybrid learning, even with high COVID-19 activity in the community, as long as class sizes remain at 15 students or less. Middle school students can take part in hybrid learning when transmission rates are below 350 cases per 100K people per 14 days, with high schoolers at a more stringent threshold of below 200 cases per 100K people per 14 days. There are currently 303.8 cases per 100K people over the last 14-day period in King County, according to DOH.
Each district has a different timeline for transitioning to hybrid learning. LWSD and ISD plan to open for elementary-aged kids first. Eastside Catholic is working to re-open the school for middle and high school students.
Lake Washington School District (LWSD)
On Jan. 6, Dr. Jon Holmen, superintendent of LWSD, hosted a virtual meeting to provide information and details about the transitioning to hybrid learning. The recording of the meeting can be watched here.
- Students in kindergarten and first grade will transition to hybrid learning on Feb. 18.
- If COVID-19 cases remain steady or decrease, then students in second and third grade will transition to hybrid learning in early to mid-March.
- Fourth and fifth graders will follow in mid to late-March.
Families were sent a survey on Jan. 7 regarding their decision to have their kids stay fully remote or transition to the hybrid model. Results of this survey indicate that about half of kindergarten and first grade families wished to remain fully remote, and the rest wanted to return to in-person instruction. When students return to school, masks and physical distancing will be required, and outside visitors will be limited. LWSD has hired 25 more teachers to make class sizes smaller for elementary-aged students. Strict cleaning and safety procedures will be in place. Additional information can be found on the LWSD website.
Eastside Catholic (EC)
EC president Gil Picciotto sent an email to all students and parents earlier this week outlining the school’s plan to transition into hybrid learning.
- Middle school students will transition to hybrid learning starting Monday, Jan. 25.
- High school students will finish their semester finals online and transition to hybrid learning on Feb. 1.
The hybrid model is the default option for all students, but families were allowed to request full remote learning by contacting the school registrar. EC also hosted a virtual meeting on Jan. 19 to answer any parent questions. A recording of this meeting can be watched here.
Students will be split into A and B groups for hybrid learning and the school day will end before lunch. Schedule information for A/B groups was shared this week. Additional information can be found on the EC website or on the 2020-2021 Reopening Guide.
Issaquah School District (ISD)
ISD sent an email to families of K-5 students requesting that parents decide if their student would be willing to participate in hybrid learning. This survey was sent out after winter break and the decision was due on Jan. 7. Families who did not respond will continue to do 100 percent remote learning. Superintendent Ron Thiele said that about 60 percent of families wanted to participate in hybrid learning.
- Kindergarten and first grade students will transition to hybrid learning starting Feb. 4.
- Second and third graders will follow starting Feb. 25, but this is dependent on COVID-19 cases remaining steady or decreasing from current levels.
These dates are contingent on state guidelines and agreement with the Issaquah Education Association (IEA), and could possibly change. In addition, ISD has been approved as a COVID-19 vaccination center through DOH. Additional information regarding hybrid learning and the vaccination center can be found on the ISD website.