Back to school won’t actually mean going back to a school building this fall.
Bainbridge Island students who opted to return to school in person will have to start the year at home and engage in Continuous Learning 2.0, the district announced this week.
The Bainbridge Island School District joined several other area districts in postponing any in-person instruction to start the school year. Kitsap County school districts were set to offer in-person instruction on a part-time or half-day basis, but rising COVID-19 case counts and concerns from parents have prompted officials to make the switch.
There were more COVID-19 cases in Kitsap County in July than in all of the previous months combined, county health officials said.
Continuous Learning 2.0 will be in place of the previously introduced Hybrid Model for at least the first nine weeks of school. At that time, the district will reevaluate to see if in-person instruction can be safely offered, Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen said in a letter to parents.
“This announcement undoubtedly brings relief to some community members while also causing disappointment and hardship for others,” Bang-Knudsen said. “BISD remains committed to our students, staff and families. As we did last spring when COVID-19 interrupted our school environment, we will continue to provide students with the necessary technology to support their learning, as well as provide meal options.”
Exceptions to the online learning models may be made for special education students, especially those who have disabilities that impact their access to online learning. That will be handled by the IEP team for each student.
Bang-Knudsen also addressed concerns that parents had brought forth in recent weeks about the reliance on Edgenuity as an online learning platform.
“We are looking to provide more BISD teacher support and instruction for these students and rely less on Edgenuity,” Bang-Knudsen said. “More details will be shared once we have a firm idea on the number of students enrolled in this model.”
The decision to postpone in-person learning was supported by the Kitsap Public Health District, which released a letter Monday to county superintendents.
“COVID-19 can present with mild symptoms, especially among children, but can also cause severe complications and even death, especially among people with chronic health conditions,” Dr. Susan Turner, county health officer, said in the letter, which was also signed by KPHD Administrator Keith Grellner and Dr. Nathan Gibson Morrow, who will take over as health officer Aug. 1.
“This makes the escalating spread we are seeing in Kitsap right now especially concerning for any consideration of in-person educational activities. It is not just the health of the students that we are concerned about, but also the staff, teachers, and families that students have daily contact with that can be impacted by the spread of COVID-19.”