With schools closed statewide through at least the end of the academic year by order of Gov. Jay Inslee to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, school districts throughout the state are looking at how to provide education and services to their students.
For the Bellevue School District (BSD), the goal was to implement remote learning that students could do at home and to do so quickly.
“The district was able to formulate a plan to utilize existing technology and an immediate approach to make learning resources available to students and then a longer-term approach,” said Michael May, BSD director of communications.
While the new system has been implemented, it’s still a work in progress.
“The district continues to work on remote learning opportunities and to communicate with students and families about what to expect as the school closure continues,” May said. “Teachers, principals and district staff continue to receive feedback from parents and are using that feedback in our planning.”
It’s no simple task, May said. Each family has its own unique needs and challenges that the district needs to overcome.
The district has doled out some 2,200 laptops and 360 hot spots (for Internet connectivity). Grade-specific curriculum info is posted to the BSD website (www.bsd405.org) and is accessible to anybody, anywhere, “including families outside of the district who might be looking for additional help with their own learning at home,” May said.
Families can receive support from any number of staff including teachers, technology staff, as well as mental health, counseling, and school nurse telephone hot lines.
Further, the district is keeping in contact with families through its website and school principals are emailing families to keep them up to date. Other resources on the website include information about meals and related pre-ordering forms.
It’s not only families that are impacted by the changes. Going from face-to-face instruction to remote learning is a change for teachers as well.
“We are thankful for our teachers as they make the switch from the traditional classroom to this new way of learning,” May said. “We have received feedback from teachers. Most teachers are using the tools, connecting with students, and are feeling supported. There are still challenges in ensuring all students are participating, but we know that our teachers always have our students’ best interests and well-being in mind.”
Seniors who were set to graduate this year have been left with uncertainty. What will graduate look like?
“We understand that this is a very important area that is close to the hearts of our graduating seniors and their parents,” May said.
May said principals are distributing information to seniors regarding meeting graduation requirements during the closure and other updates as those plans are formalized.
The district will be hosting a number of virtual town halls. The first will be from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 9. It will be hosted on Microsoft Teams.
“Graduating seniors will be able to hear answers to questions and concerns they may have for the remainder of the school year,” May said. “They will also have a chance to submit questions prior to the meeting.”
Schools will be hosting their own town halls for seniors the week after spring break.
When school will be back in session remains uncertain, and any lingering impacts for BSD are foggy as well.
“The district is doing everything we can to avoid long-term impacts on our operations,” May said. “Because we do not have details about exactly when the closure will end, we are working on contingency plans.”