In-person learning decision gives ‘reinforcement’ to BISD plan

School board also adopts Race, Equity and Identity policy

When the state Department of Health announced that all schools must plan for full-time in-person learning next fall, Bainbridge Island School District superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen was excited that it matched BISD’s decision made months ago.

“The great news is both at the national level, as well as the state level, we’re getting a lot of reinforcement for this decision that we made,” Bang-Knudsen said at last week’s school board meeting. “We’ve got the full support of the governor and CDC to do this work. We’re really planning on all contingencies.”

New guidance from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and DOH include continued mitigation measures such as masks, ventilation, cleaning and disinfecting, and responding to and reporting COVID-19 cases.

Physical distancing, recommended by DOH, will be 3 feet in classrooms and 6 feet elsewhere “to the greatest extent possible.” Accommodations can be made for students and staff who need to less distance. BISD will not offer a.m./p.m. cohorts next year. Students who wish to do school remotely still have that option.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that children 12 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated. The clinic at the Commodore Options School gym vaccinated kids last weekend. DOH is encouraging the vaccine but is not requiring it for school attendance.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for ages 12-17. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still only authorized for people 18 and older. According to news reports, Pfizer won’t ask the FDA for an emergency use authorization for children younger than 12 until September.

“We have one of the highest vaccination rates here on Bainbridge Island,” Bang-Knudsen said. “We’ve already had hundreds of parents sign their kids up to get vaccinated for the first time (last) week. Awesome, awesome news. We just want to keep encouraging all families to get their students, as soon as they’re eligible, vaccinated. It’s going to make a huge difference. The continued research shows that when you’re fully vaccinated you are fully safe from COVID. It’s going to help us return to normal sooner than we anticipated.”

Bang-Knudsen said that 62 percent of BISD staff have self-reported being fully vaccinated, while 65 percent have received at least one dose. There are no active COVID cases among staff or students.

“I’m also really proud that we have a really high rate of in-person students who are coming to our schools, compared to my colleagues and other areas across the Puget Sound… That just validates the work that we’ve done, the hard decisions that we’ve made along the way, and that families want their kids for in-person learning.”

Other BISD news

The school board unanimously adopted Policy 3111, Race, Equity and Identity. The District Improvement Plan states that BISD will adopt a school board equity policy. When creating the policy, the district reviewed other model policies from districts across the state and reviewed key elements of its Improvement Plan, according to a BISD newsletter.

An initial draft of the policy was shared with building administrators as well as members of the Multicultural Advisory Council. Early this spring a survey was created and staff, families, students and members of the community provided feedback. All public commenters at the school board meeting were in favor of adopting the policy.

“We appreciate and value the involvement of the stakeholders throughout the development of the policy, and we are very pleased with the final results,” the newsletter reads.

Also, Bainbridge High School was ranked the 6th best public high school in the state by U.S. News & World Report. If you consider only traditional and comprehensive high schools, BHS is ranked 3rd. The ranking factors include college readiness, math and reading proficiency and performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth and graduation rate.

Longtime BISD food service worker Shirley Rice was recently honored after serving over one million meals to students. Rice has been working for the district since 1990, starting at Commodore and then moving to Sakai to help set up their food service program when it opened.

“It was incredible just hearing her colleagues talk about her, what a hard worker she is, how much she loves working with kids,” Bang-Knudsen said.