Return to School

September 29, 2020
Update on Phases of Education

The purpose of this message to staff and parents is to share a few updates on our realities from this school year thus far as well as an update for our prekindergarten through grade 6 students. Here are the updates on our current realities:

  • It has been made clear to me that nearly all of us want our lives, routines, families, and schools back as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. I completely understand; I share those same wants. The reality is, however, things are different due to COVID-19. We must acknowledge the fact that things are different but pull together as a school community to seek ways to make the most of the environment we have been given.
  • As we move into October this week, the Auburn-Washburn student and staff data indicate that our safety precautions are working. Survey data collected last week indicated that 85 – 90% of respondents felt safe at school. Since July 1, there have been 10 reported positive COVID-19 student cases and 7 reported positive COVID-19 staff cases. COVID-19 has not spread in our schools at this time. The following safety precautions will continue to be modeled and enforced at school: temperature checks, six feet of social distancing, facial masks, hand washing, and daily disinfecting.
  • Remote learning has not been received as well as onsite learning, but we are creating plans to improve the remote learning experience. Remote learning will be in play throughout the school year, to some extent, so we are committed to seeking improvements and efficiencies in this area.
  • Overall health, wellness, and social-emotional wellbeing are being tested. The COVID-19 environment has added stress to family, work, school, and even play. If possible, carve out time during each day or week to unplug and reconnect with family and friends in a meaningful way. Socialization and positive interactions are extremely important right now. Also, each school has a school-based mental health team that is able to provide social-emotional supports to students. Do not hesitate contacting your child's school to learn more.

Our elementary teachers, support staff, parents, and students have done a remarkable job learning and navigating remote learning thus far this year. Even with tremendous effort and supports in place, remote learning is challenging for elementary students. Our primary goals this year are to ensure safety for students and staff and to provide meaningful learning opportunities for students. Upon a great deal of reflection, seeking to understand challenges, and review of feedback data, the Board of Education approved the following motion at the September 28 Board meeting: "Approve a change from Phase 2 Hybrid Learning to Phase 3 Onsite Learning in grades Prekindergarten through Grade 6 by October 19. Phase 1 Remote will continue to be an option for elementary families to choose. The following safety precautions will continue to be modeled and enforced: temperature checks, six feet of social distancing, facial masks, hand washing, and daily disinfecting." We believe it is in the best educational interest of elementary students to have them return safely to school five days a week.

A survey will be sent to elementary parents with more detailed information about the transition to Phase 3 Onsite Learning and parents will be asked to choose Phase 3 Onsite Learning or Phase 1 Remote Learning for their students. In addition to that survey, elementary principals will send more detailed information about how Phase 3 Onsite Learning will work in their school. Due to student enrollment and building capacity, there will be slight differences among our elementary schools, but the common goal for each elementary school is to provide the opportunity for all students to safely return to school for in-person teaching and learning.

There is not a plan to bring all secondary students back at this time. WRMS and WRHS will continue in Phase 2 Hybrid. Protecting our safety precautions with current student enrollment and building capacity creates issues. The district is exploring available off-site locations within district boundaries as a possibility to increase space at the secondary level. It is unknown at this time if this exploration will result in an actionable plan.

Thank you for all you do to support our students during this unprecedented time!

Take Great Care,

Dr. Scott McWilliams
Superintendent of Schools