Friday, November 20, 2020

Weekly Briefing 11.20.20

 Lewis County Metrics


Cases are on the increase again in Lewis County and are currently predicted to breach the 200/100,000 mark. We are beginning to get reports of students who have been exposed to adults who are testing COVID-positive. We are grateful to those families who are voluntarily isolating their children who have been exposed. As of this writing, no students or staff have tested positive for COVID. We believe that this is the result of our community masking, keeping distant and practicing hand hygiene. Our staff has been diligent at cleaning and disinfecting spaces as well as promoting "hands, face, space" in our buildings. As a team, we're doing our part to keep schools open in the buildings.

Holidays

Traditional times for gathering are here. This year, we ask that everyone is mindful that the virus does not observe holidays. Large, indoor gatherings will only put us further behind in our efforts to reopen our schools fully and see a return of athletics and activities. While it is painful to be away from our loved ones during the holidays, this sacrifice will help us not overrun our healthcare systems and will help us get our local businesses reopened.

TMS/THS

We are currently planning to bring students back to TMS on December 1. We're also planning to bring the Class of 2021 and students with special needs to THS the same day. We continue to be on track to bring all high school students back to the new classrooms in January. 

Until December 14, all indoor athletic activities are suspended. We're hoping that infection rates will subside enough that the Governor will lift those restrictions in December. 

We encourage parents to stay in contact with their students and teachers to help support learning remotely. We still have a number of disengaged students who will struggle when we come back to regular order if they haven't engaged in studies now.  

Our fall achievement scores were consistent with what we would have expected if we had been in school through the past spring. In spite of the shutdown, students have continued to grow. We note gaps in their skills and knowledge, but not as many or as profound as we were imagining. This is great news. It means that the learning losses can be overcome as long as students stay engaged.

Regular Order

I want to be certain that we don't begin to accept our current situation as something that will always be. Teaching and learning remotely is more difficult. Attending on a hybrid schedule is more difficult. Eating by yourself is unpleasant.

At some point, the impact of the virus will subside and we will return to all students learning on campus in regular groups. We'll have athletics, activities, music and community events. We are always pointing toward that goal of reducing the spread to levels where it is possible to have regular order again. Like young children on a long drive, I find myself asking, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" We thank you for your partnership in this effort. If everyone does their part, we'll get back to regular order.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Weekly Briefing 11.13.20

 Lewis County Metrics


Cases in Lewis County continue to rise, but at a somewhat lower level than the rest of the state. We have some students who have had close contacts and are isolating, but so far, no COVID-positive cases in our schools. We are hopeful that the holiday season won't increase cases and cause us to retreat from our current plans to bring TMS and the Class of 2021 back to the buildings. 

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who is practicing hand hygiene, masking and maintaining distance, we've been able to bring students back to TES and to have modified athletic practices. These have had tremendous benefit for our students, especially in their overall emotional well-being. Living a rural lifestyle allows us to "sneak around behind" the virus and engage in activities that are out of the reach of our urban neighbors. We are not immune though, so please continue to be vigilant especially during the holidays.




Saturday, November 7, 2020

Weekly Briefing 11.6.20

 Lewis County Metrics



The curve appears to be flattening, but at a much higher level than we need in order to return to regular order. Hands, face and space remain the best weapons we have for reducing the spread.

Return to the Buildings

1st, 4th and 5th grades returned to TES this week on AM/PM schedules with half in the building for half the day, Monday through Thursday. Students and staff are excited to see one another again and to be working on campus, even though we're still using our safety protocols. Reminder that Fridays are a remote learning day for all students and staff to allow our maintenance team to do deep cleaning and disinfecting of the buildings.

Our thanks to parents who have been so cooperative in the transition from home to school by allowing busses to drop off students and clear before private vehicles enter the drop zone. This keeps our busses on schedule to get to the next set of homes and stops. Our transportation department is working almost constantly throughout the day with special routes in addition to the regular routes. We also thank you for using the attestation "coupons" as this speeds up the screening process upon entry to the building. 

Athletics

All sports are engaged in modified practices in cohorts of 6 with masks and distance. WIAA has new guidance on interscholastic contests. Currently, our county's case rate is too high to allow for contests. We're hoping that, by working together, we can reduce case rates so that our athletes can have a season. For more information on WIAA's guidance go to WIAA Guidance.

If you have questions about athletic seasons, practice or other athletic questions, please contact our Athletic Director, Grady Fallon.






Friday, October 30, 2020

Weekly Briefing 10.30.20

 Lewis County Metrics



Case numbers remain lower than they have been, but still not trending in the right direction. Remember, we're working to get below 25 cases per 100,000 so that we can return all of our students to the buildings and have high risk sporting activities (like basketball games). In Kansas, they've found that counties with mask mandates have reduced their case rates while counties without them have not. While most of the cases in our county are currently in Centralia and Chehalis, most of us find ourselves in those communities on a fairly regular basis and could potentially bring the virus home. Additionally, when we get together with family and friends from other areas, there is the potential to become infected. One of the best ways to virtually eliminate your risk is by wearing a mask and staying 6' away from others.

Reopening Update

Beginning Monday, all TES grades will return to TES on an AM/PM schedule (half of the class in the morning and half in the afternoon). On-campus instruction will continue Monday through Thursday with Friday remaining a remote learning day for all. This allows teachers to prepare online lessons and also allows our custodial team to deep clean the building for the following week. We run a skeleton crew on Fridays so that we're not in the way of our custodial team.

TMS continues to serve students with specific needs on campus and is putting together plans to serve students on campus and remotely beginning on Dec. 1. This will be the start of the new trimester and is consistent with the recommendations of Lewis County Public Health. 

THS is planning to return seniors to the building on Dec. 1 for at least half-time instruction. We're concerned with the number of seniors who are not engaging in their work and worry that they may jeopardize their graduation in the spring. Ventilation at THS was poor to begin with and has been taxed by dust from construction. We have decided to wait until mid-January when the new classrooms are complete to return grades 9-11 to the building. 

Athletic teams are practicing but won't be able to play games until case rates get down into the moderate range (<75/100,000) for volleyball and low range (<25/100,000) for basketball. These levels are according to WIAA return to play regulations. This is one of the reasons that I stress using the tools we have to reduce the spread of the disease. We want our kids to be able to play ball and we know our community does too.

Attestations

Students who are learning on-campus are asked to bring a special "coupon" with them each day filled out by a parent. This coupon says that the child has no symptoms and hasn't been in contact with anyone who has tested positive. When this is completed and given to our staff on arrival, the student goes right to getting their temperature checked and off to class. Students without this have to stop and answer questions. Your child should have brought a booklet of these coupons home to you. If you run low or didn't receive them, call your child's school or drop by to pick up a booklet. Having these filled out makes the arrival process smoother and more efficient.


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Weekly Briefing 10.23.20

 

Lewis County Metrics


The two-week average of cases declined this week and is expected to continue. We still remain one of the most active counties in Washington and well above the 75 threshold for moderate activity. 

Return to School Buildings

Our Kindergarteners have been at school successfully since Oct. 5. We plan to build on that success by returning 2nd and 3rd graders to the building on Oct. 26. All grades will be in the building half-day and remote learning half-day on Monday through Thursday. Everyone will remote learn on Fridays so that teachers can prepare lessons for those who have opted for remote learning only and our staff can deep clean the building. It is important that everyone understand that this is not "half-day school". Students are expected to learn at home when school is in session during their half-day away from the building. 

On November 2, we'll welcome our 1st, 4th and 5th grades back to the building on the same schedule. Doing it this way allows us to be sure that our safety measures are working well and we're prepared for additional people in the building. 

On behalf of all of us at TES and the district, we thank parents for observing our new safety protocols and helping us at drop off and pick up times. Transitions are difficult under the best of circumstances and changes to well-established routines create additional stress. We understand and are grateful for the grace that our parents have shown us as we reopen.

TMS/THS

TMS and THS will continue to serve students with special needs on campus as resources allow. We intend to return students to TMS on 12/1 in hybrid fashion. Specifics are still being worked out so that we can incorporate what we're learning from other schools into our plans. THS plans to bring Seniors back to the building on 12/1 as well. Grades 9-11 will return as soon as the new classrooms are ready for occupancy. Current timeline indicates we'll be able to move in during Winter holiday and be ready for students in January. The new Commons and admin offices will not be ready until February, so meals will be grab and go to be eaten in classrooms at THS.

Food for Thought

I have seasonal allergies. Other than grass, I'm not sure what makes me sneeze, but Friday morning I woke up sneezing repeatedly. I took my Allegra and waited for it to kick in. I went to work (sneezing) and worked through the morning (sneezing). I began to think that it wasn't polite for me to be at work and my Allegra wasn't doing the job, so I grabbed my stuff and decided to work from home.

As I drove home, I began thinking, what if my sneezing, coughing and body aches turned out to be COVID. (I DON'T HAVE COVID.)  I started thinking about the two previous days and trying to list in my mind all of the people that I had been around for more than 15 minutes in the whole day.

I lost count. 

I've followed my own advice of wearing a mask, washing my hands and staying 6' away from others. However, even at that, I lost count of the people that I had spent more than 15 minutes with. I imagined those people getting a call from the contact tracers. I imagined how they would take the news that they needed to isolate themselves for 14 days.

While the disease is survivable and most do, a few cases in our community will cause additional chaos and inconvenience for a lot of people. Two or three exposures related to school could have everyone returning to remote learning. It is so important that all of us help one another by washing our hands, wearing a mask and making space so that when there are infections, the spread is reduced.

I invite you to take a few minutes to ponder: who have you been with inside of 6' for more than 15 minutes in a full day (with or without a mask) during the last two days? Those are the people who would get a phone call and need to isolate for 14 days if you tested positive today. If you're associated with our schools, we would be one of the phone calls. Hands. Face. Space.





Friday, October 16, 2020

Weekly Briefing 10.16.20


Lewis County Metrics



Reopening Schools

The Board of Directors approved a return to school buildings plan at their meeting on Oct. 15. Lewis County Public Health and Social Services recommended returning elementary students to the buildings no earlier than October 19, middle school no earlier than November 16 and high school no earlier than December 14. 

Toledo Elementary will return 2nd and 3rd grade students to the building on October 26. Grades 1, 4 and 5 will return on November 2. All grades will operate on a half-day/ half-class schedule in order to be able to maintain physical distancing between students. Food service will be grab and go to be eaten at home. We're not able to maintain social distance for all in the cafeteria and we want the classrooms to be mask on at all times. For detailed information regarding return to TES, watch for communications from the school. 

Some have asked why we aren't returning all to TES on October 19. We are still working out how to maintain cohorts of students when we have so many programs that mix students (Special Education, interventions, and specialists). We also want to be sure that our screening protocols are routine as we increase the number of students in the building. Finally, we want to be prepared to return to remote instruction quickly if we're required to do that.

Toledo Middle School has been working with students with disabilities on campus since the beginning of the school year. This is because many of those students do not benefit from remote instruction and their specific disabilities can't be addressed remotely. We have identified an additional group of students who need special supports and will be bringing them to the building in cohorts of 5 beginning on Oct. 26. On December 1, the new trimester will begin and we'll transition to our full hybrid model at TMS. For specifics on that plan, watch for communications from the school that will detail days and times as well as food service and other details.

We've become concerned that members of the Class of 2021 (Seniors) are disengaging from their studies. This places their diploma at risk. Beginning December 1, we'll begin bringing seniors back to the building for instruction and supervision. 

Ventilation at THS has never been good and is one of the reasons we needed to build the new school. Construction has added dust to the mix of air quality issues and, in spite of air purifiers, bringing all students to the building right now would not be safe or healthy. For this reason, we plan to bring grades 9-11 to THS in mid-January when the new classrooms, gym and locker rooms are completed. In February, all of the new addition should be complete and students will benefit from the improved ventilation.

As we bring students back to our buildings for in-person instruction, I'm asking everyone in our community to support our efforts. With 140 cases per 100,000 population, Lewis County is the most active county in Western Washington right now. Schools that have brought students back to the buildings have had to return to remote learning. Thurston County with 61 cases per 100,000 has chosen to pause their return to school plans for two weeks to be sure that their case rates stay below 75. We haven't been below 75 cases since July. Toledo is remote enough that, if we are diligent, we can pull this off. If we are not, we will experience significant difficulties. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay 6' distant from others. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Weekly Briefing 10.9.20

Lewis County Metrics



You'll note that this week, cases have again increased to the highest level since the onset of the pandemic. Only 7 counties in Washington have higher case loads. 

Return to School

Our Kindergarteners (THS Class of 2032) began on-campus instruction this week. Mrs. Bacon reports that they "own the school". They know how to ride the bus, get their screening and temperature checks, sit in the right spot in the cafeteria and go to class on time. They wear their masks without any difficulties or reminders all day- including recess. Mrs. Bacon says they are one of the most self-reliant groups she's had in recent memory. Parents- you've done a great job getting your kids ready for this adventure.

TES staff and faculty will meet today to develop consensus on the next steps in bringing students back to the building. I've told them that we need to do one or two grades at a time and give some space in between each new group. We'll continue with half-days on campus and half-days remote in order to accommodate all students on campus. The board will be considering our recommendations at their meeting on 10/15.

I am recommending to the board that we bring our TMS students to the building on Dec. 1. This is the first day of the new trimester. I'm also recommending that the Class of 2021 return to the building in some fashion the same day. We're becoming concerned that our seniors are disengaging and may have difficulties graduating this year unless we intervene. 

Food Service

Remember that two meals each day are available to all children ages 0-18 through the end of December. There is no charge for these meals. You do not have to qualify and they are available Monday-Friday. Order online using the order form on our website. You can pick up meals at TES or one of the 3 delivery sites in the district. Many families reported that this helped with their grocery bills last spring. We're concerned because we aren't getting as many requests for meals now as we did before.

New Requirements

We received more new guidance from Labor and Industries, the Governor's office and WIAA this week. L&I provided us with new regulations related to PPE while the Governor and WIAA revised requirements for athletics. We're in the process of aligning our practices to these new rules.