BISD to extend decision deadline for families to choose learning model

Students in the Bainbridge Island School District will get to choose from a hybrid learning model or solely remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year as recently announced by district officials.

The hybrid model will consist of a combination of in-person instruction and distance learning, while the online model will see students stay home full-time. Families will be able to select different options for each of their children.

For hybrid learning, K-8 students will attend school for approximately two and a half to three hours per day, four days per week — Monday through Thursday. Attendance will be staggered so that half of the students will be in the building in the morning, and the other half will go in the afternoon.

High school students, will also follow the same schedule, but the district is still working out the details of balancing in-person and remote studies. Additional information is still to come. All students engaged in the hybrid model will spend the remainder of the time engaged in distance learning.

The district will only provide transportation for those who need it, and encourages families to have students transported by private car, bicycle or foot. The district also may have to convert to full-time online learning for all students if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens as the school year wears on.

Students and staff will be required to wear face masks while on campus and will be screened daily as they enter the school. Specific requirements are still being developed by OSPI and will be released at a later date. Between student shifts, classrooms and other frequent “touch points” will be sanitized.

In the online home learning model, the district will utilize Edgenuity, an online curriculum platform to complete all of their assignments. Edgenuity has been in use in the district for a few years for students who could not attend classes in-person. The platform has a full range of courses for elementary and secondary students.

A teacher will be assigned to each student, and although Edgenuity is not designed for student interaction, teachers will work with groups of assigned students in order to provide opportunities for connection. Secondary students will take the equivalent of six year-long classes per school year.

“This announcement was the first piece of a very complicated puzzle,” said district public information officer Erin Bischoff. “The remainder of the summer will be spent tackling the details of these educational models and developing the processes and protocols to implement the state’s required health measures. BISD will continue to share updates as plans solidify. In the meantime, please know that student and staff safety is paramount, and BISD will follow the health practices outlined in the Reopening Washington Schools 2020 Planning Guide.”

Parents Respond

In an open letter to the school board signed by nearly 200 parents as of press time, which was shared with the Review, parents expressed disappointment with the 100 percent remote learning option as they do not believe the Edgenuity program will be adequate for students.

Many of the parents said they do not feel safe sending their kids back to school, though some of the later signatories said they would choose the hybrid option.

With that in mind, their request for remote learning is to dramatically expand the Mosaic Home Education Partnership instead, or create a new and streamlined version of homeschooling. The letter cited the Quilcene School District, which assigns groups of homeschooling families to certified teachers who act as case managers and check in weekly.

“We want to give our kids a great education and keep them healthy and keep them enrolled in the Bainbridge Island School District,” said the letter. “We formally request the district work with us to create a third option.”

BISD to hold study session next Tuesday

Responding to parent concerns on Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen announced that the district would extend the decision date to choose online or hybrid learning to Friday, July 23. This gives the school board time to engage further with the community, he said, but it also represents a final deadline.

The board will also hold a study session via Zoom on July 21 at 5:45 p.m. to review progress in the development of plans for the next school year.

“In order for guardians to make the best possible decision, they need to have more details about the options,” Bang-Knudsen said. “While significant progress has been made to create the 2020-21 framework, many specifics are still in development. We hear your frustrations about this lack of clarity and as plans solidify, we will continue to share the information with you.”

BISD has also set up a call center that will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday next week to field questions — the number is 206-780-1079. If you prefer to email, send questions to BISDreopening@bisd303.org.

However, the district will have to hold firm to the July 23 deadline in order to have plans ready for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction by August.

“It is important to note the pressure BISD is under to finalize plans for the 2020-21 school year, and extending this decision deadline intensifies the pressure,” Bang-Knudsen said. “We need to know which students will be enrolled in which learning model to set class rosters, class schedules, bus routes, etc. Because of this, we will hold firm to the July 23 decision deadline. In addition, we are required to submit our plans to OSPI in August.”

“I want to acknowledge the immense stress families, staff and the school district are under. Planning for the new school year always has its set of challenges, but planning for a school year when you don’t know what COVID-19 curveball lies ahead is extremely unsettling.”

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