Like everyone else these days, educators are learning as they go.
The Bainbridge Island School District, which just last week said its youngest hybrid learners would start in-person learning Nov. 9, now says that was a mistake.
This week, it announced that it won’t be doing that until January 2021. It’s not because of an uptick in COVID-19. It’s because the district just isn’t ready.
“With all the successful planning that has gone into preparing for in-person learning, we thought we were ready, but the announcement brought to light areas that need continued refinement,” superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen says in his weekly email to the district.
Reasons given include lack of staffing and lack of specifics on teaching, along with continued coronavirus concerns.
Regarding staffing, Bang-Knudsen said while there are enough substitute teachers to cover potential teacher absences for preschool, kindergarten and first grade, “We are teetering on not having enough.”
That also means more subs would need to be hired to be able to bring in more students later.
Regarding teacher preparedness, Bang-Knudsen said most of the focus has been on safety and what can’t be done.
“We need to work with our teachers to create a framework on what is possible,” Bang-Knudsen said. “We also heard from many parents who wanted more specifics of what the school day will look like.”
As for COVID, while Kitsap County rates remain moderate, rates are spiking in nearby counties.
“This, coupled with the upcoming holiday season, gave us reason to pause,” Bang-Knudsen said.
He added that the BISD is still committed to bringing back students for in-person learning and is confident in their COVID safety procedures.
“That said, we want the students’ learning experience to be positive and enjoyable, and we need more time to ensure a successful return,” he added. “Our ultimate goal remains to bring hybrid students in grades preschool through 12th grade to our schools for in-person learning. I am confident that we will achieve it – especially if we all continue to wear masks and adhere to social distancing.”
As he has before, Bang-Knudsen apologized for again having to change the course of direction, realizing how hard it is on families and students. Courses of action have been hard to predict regarding the coronavirus.
“An announcement like today may elicit a sense of relief in some, and a sense of disappointment in others,” he said. “The BISD community impresses me with its level of care, compassion and advocacy.”
Principals at district schools also voiced support.
At Blakely Elementary, Reese Ande said, “Thank you for your continued patience and support as we navigate the twists and turns of a pandemic impacted school year. I know that this is not an easy time to be an educator, an educational leader, a parent or a student. We are all trying our very best, and it is OK to acknowledge that at times, this is all just really very difficult.”
Ande added in an obviously heartfelt message: “When I get overwhelmed about all that I cannot control in these crazy times, I picture the faces of our Blakely students, and remember my commitment to each of them, and to our entire Blakely community. Regardless of where school is taking place, I want our students to feel safe, happy and supported.”
Ordway Elementary Principal Melina Reynvaan said Parent-Teacher Conferences this week should help with working out problems associated with online learning.
“The more you can share about your child’s remote learning experience, the more we can determine how to best support your child,” Reynvaan said. “This is a new learning environment and we are working on building relationships with each other.”
She understands the many problems families are facing right now.
“COVID fatigue, cabin fever, lost traditions and missing those we care about at this time of year has Fall bringing us not only cloudy weather, but difficulty seeing a silver lining.
“At Ordway, we do believe that we can do a lot with what we have, where we are, and we look forward to creating our own silver lining as we focus on giving and gratitude in the month of November.”