Superintendent Enfield has announced that Highline Public Schools will start the school year in distance learning. Here is her message to staff.
I have been fiercely hoping to have our students back in our schools this fall because I recognize that physical connection is a significant part of knowing our students by name, strength and need.
As we have been planning for a safe return to school, we have been monitoring public health data, gathering feedback from staff and families, and weighing competing interests. As I have said before, there are no good solutions, and the best we can do is find a solution that is the least bad for the most--and most vulnerable--people.
I have been talking daily with the superintendents of our neighboring districts. After reviewing all the data and feedback, we all believe that the best course of action is to begin the school year in full distance learning.
I realize this decision is a relief to some and a hardship for others. It is not a decision I wanted to make, but I feel compelled to do so based on a number of factors, including:
- Infection rates in King County are predicted to get worse before they get better.
- Over 35% of our staff identify as being in a high-risk group for COVID infection.
- Nearly 29% of our teachers live with or care for someone in a high-risk group.
As the person who ultimately bears responsibility for the health and safety of our staff and students in our schools, I cannot in good conscience open schools for in-person instruction in September.
It is too early to predict how long we will remain in distance learning. We will monitor infection rates and rely on public health guidance to determine when we can safely reopen school buildings. When we can, we will move into our hybrid model.
We have learned from your feedback and our experience last spring, and our Academics workgroup is developing an improved distance learning program that includes:
- Live instruction
- Virtual small group support
- Broadband internet access to more families, with the support of our city governments
- A digital device for every individual student
We recognize that distance learning cannot fully meet the needs of some students with special needs, and we are evaluating the extent to which we can safely provide therapeutic services to students who need them.
Since we will offer distance learning as an option after hybrid learning starts, we have decided to postpone the opening of Highline Virtual Academy until Fall 2021. This allows us to fully focus on refining our distance learning program now and gives us the opportunity to thoughtfully develop a permanent high-quality, challenging online school for Highline students who thrive in this environment.
We all hoped this pandemic would be under control by fall. No one is more frustrated by that than I am. Let’s turn our frustration, disappointment and anxiety into positive energy and determine to make this the best fall we possibly can for our students. They need us now more than ever. We can do this. We Are Highline.