BI schools better off with COVID than others in Kitsap

Bainbridge Island School District superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen said last week that 95% of staff has received a COVID-19 vaccination.

The mandate from Gov. Jay Inslee for all school personnel to receive the vaccine was Oct. 18.

Bang-Knudsen said 4% of staff received religious or medical exemptions, and 1% will be placed on leave until they are vaccinated. Unvaccinated staff will wear KN95 masks, as well as an additional face covering. They also will not eat or drink around others and be tested twice a week for COVID.

He said the school’s testing site saw 333 people, with just 1.2% testing positive. One Bainbridge High School student tested positive and two from Sakai Intermediate School. There are 15 people in the district quarantined, although that does not mean they were exposed at school.

In Kitsap County, youth have seen the biggest increases in catching COVID, but Bainbridge is bucking that trend.

“We have some of the lowest rates in the county and state,” Bang-Knudsen said, including adults. “Students are safe and we’re keeping our staff safe. Our efforts are working to make a difference.” Our district is “more stringent than other districts.”

During public comments, a few parents weren’t happy about students having to wear masks outside. One called it a muzzle. One said they want to be free and enjoy their childhood, but some say they can’t breathe.

Bang-Knudsen pointed out there are many other stressors locally besides COVID. He mentioned the ferry system canceling half of its trips to Seattle, which will make it hard for commuters. He mentioned how there are so many jobs available that it is hard to fill them. He added that puts extra pressure on those who remain. In the school district itself, he said there are staff shortages in transporation, custodial and food service areas.

“This is not school as usual,” he said of their long hours. “Even McDonald’s was closed” for a while due to lack of staff.

Other stressors include supply chain challenges, rising costs due to inflation and lack of affordable housing, he said. “Things are really hectic.”

To combat that, he said schools are rededicating themselves to the district motto, “BISD Strong. Everyone is welcome, and we have strong minds, strong heart and strong community.”

He thanked students, families and staff for being adaptable and showing “empathy and understanding for what others are going through.” We will “continue to pull together and unite for the greater good.”

Later on, Bang-Knudsen gave a presentation on enrollment. The district has 62 more students than last year and 199 more than projected.

However, he still pointed out that in 2005-06 there were 4,067 students and this year there are 3,539. In the top four grades there are 409 more students than in the bottom four grades. There are 335 students in this year’s graduating class, compared with 194 in the kindergarten classes.

He said the city is taking steps to help with that. He thanked the city for $3.75 million in federal funds to go toward bringing more affordable housing to town.

“I think people realize there are fewer school-aged kids on the island,” he said, adding half of the district’s staff commutes on Highway 305 because they can’t afford to live here. “This is going to be an ongoing challenge for us.”

Following that was a presentation on the School Improvement Plan. School plans will be shared with the public Nov. 18 by Wilkes, Blakely and Ordway elementary schools, along with Sakai Intermediate. Dec. 9 the plans will will be shared by Woodward Middle and Commodore Options schools. And finally, the plan for Bainbridge High School will be shared Jan. 13, 2022.

It will explain district goals of health, well-being and safety. Other goals include:

*Developing social and emotional skills that lead to positive, healthy lives; and a strong connection of belonging and a sense of hope.

*Staff should know each students strengths and needs, have authentic relationships with students and encourage strong relationships between students.

Recent donations to the district include: To the BHS class of 2024 for its prom $4,450 from the Woodward PTO. From the Blakely PTO, almost $3,600 for Renaissance Learning at that school.