The start of the new school year for students will be quite different than what they have experienced in the past. Classes begin in Brookings-Harbor School District on Sept. 8 and in the remainder of the county on Sept. 14.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brookings-Harbor School District has established significant changes for learning opportunities.
“Our schools will look very different this year, and our approach with your child will be patient, positive, and supportive,” Brookings-Harbor School District Superintendent David Marshall writes in a letter to parents posted at the district’s website.
In the following conversation, Marshall gives us insight into the new school year ahead.
The Pilot: A recent letter you posted to parents and students on the district’s website gives a good outline of what we can expect for the start of the new school year. What challenges do you see for the in-person instruction in grades K-5 and how are you guiding teachers, staff and parents to overcome those challenges?
Marshall: We will be starting school this fall differently than we have in our lifetimes. Students have not physically been in class for nearly half a year. Understandably this will create a combination of excitement and concern. At a basic level, we are approaching the start of the year with staff and with students focusing on kindness, patience and grace. Our goal is that we create an environment where school is still a welcoming, friendly and supportive place to learn and grow.
The Pilot: What do you see as the challenges for Distance Learning for grades 6-12 and how are you guiding teachers, staff and parents to overcome those challenges?
Marshall: We learned a great deal from our experience this last spring. We have been able to provide significantly more resources and training to provide students an experience that is rigorous and consistent. Even online, this fall will feel more like school.
The Pilot: From your vantage point, and what you are hearing from parents, teachers and staff, what are the top concerns voiced so far about the new school year?
Marshall: Parents want to know what school will look like for their child. In surveys, a desire for consistency has been expressed. Of course, not being able to have students in school for a full day presents significant challenges to many families and staff members. Parents and staff want to feel confident that the district is strongly following the health and safety measures in place. I can say that the district does take the responsibility of following the safety measures in place seriously and is providing training to support staff in the implementation of the measures.
The Pilot: How will the parent conferences be conducted (during the first week of school)? How important are they, and what do you hope parents will take away from the conferences?
Marshall: Welcome conferences will be held on Sept. 8, 9 and 10. Each school will be reaching out to families to let them know how they will be approaching the conferences. Depending on the grade level, parents may have scheduled times for parents and children to meet their teacher and sign out Chromebooks and other instructional materials. Other grades may have drive-up “meet and greet” events so students can meet all of their teachers and check out needed instructional materials.
Sept. 11 will be the first day of in-person school for kindergarten through 3rd grade (county metrics permitting) and the first day of distance learning for 4th Grade and above. (See “School Opening Plan” and “Reopening Metrics” below for more information).
The Pilot: What is your advice to parents about establishing at-home learning routines and how to cope best with the pandemic-required teaching guidelines?
Marshall: Establishing routines and schedules is an important aspect of helping children succeed in the distance learning mode. To help with this, our plan is that the class schedules will be consistent regardless of whether the students are learning in-person following the hybrid instructional model or if they are needing to learn remotely because school is not able to be open for a period of time. This approach will help greatly with any needed transitions from in-person to distance learning and back.
The Pilot: How is the Brookings-Harbor School District handling student learning for children with physical and mental disabilities during this pandemic-learning process?
Marshall: The district has purchased specialized tools to help strengthen the services that we are able to provide remotely. In addition, the state guidelines do permit limited in person instruction even when we are in distance learning mode. This enables us to provide additional and direct support to students most in need, including those with physical and mental disabilities.
The Pilot: Certainly, a challenging time for all involved as we move forward together. What is your main message to parents, students, teachers and staff about the new school year ahead?
Marshall: We are excited to reconnect with our students again. Together we will be able to successfully meet any challenges we may face this school year.
Superintendent Marshall has posted an updated letter on the Brookings-Harbor School District website with more specific details about the new school year ahead. You can also see that letter at currypilot.com.
Brookings-Harbor School Opening Plan
Orientation activities (supplies, Chromebooks, drive through or in-person teacher conferences, etc.) —Sept. 8-10 (all grades)
K-3: Hybrid start date Friday, Sept. 11 (half-day in-person in classrooms, and half-day distance learning)
4-5: Hybrid start date Friday, Sept. 11 (distance learning only), with plans to begin in-person half days the following week — Friday, Sept. 18.
6-8: Hybrid start date Friday, Sept. 11 (distance learning only), with plans to stay in distance learning for the first quarter until Oct. 30 and then re-evaluate
9-12: Hybrid start state Friday, Sept. 11 (distance learning only), with plans to stay in distance learning for the first quarter until Oct. 30 and then re-evaluate
Regarding reopening metrics, which involve state guidelines and an assessment of COVID-19 activity in the county, school district spokesperson Nancy Raskauskas-Coons provided helpful clarification:
Reopening metrics are different for K-3 versus 4-12, she said Wednesday. As of the Sept. 1 data release, looking back at the week of Aug. 23), we are on-track for the K-3 in-person opening on Sept. 11. Last week we also entered the three-week window that state and local need to meet stricter metrics for our planned 4-5 in-person start on Sept. 18. We achieved the needed numbers for the first week of the three, but won’t know for sure until we see the official numbers for the week we are in and the next.
If for some reason grades 4-5 are not able to start their in-person half days on Sept. 18, we will either announce to the community a plan to give weekly updates in hopes of opening ASAP, or to keep that group in distance-learning only for the full first quarter similar to the middle and high school students for consistency of planning.