Weekly Update from the Superintendent

January 5, 2022

Dear students, staff, families and community, 

Happy New Year and thanks for your understanding and flexibility regarding school closures and last-minute changes.  We do our best but sometimes have to pivot due to unexpected conditions.  We are anticipating more snow this evening and tomorrow morning.  We will make an announcement either later this evening or early tomorrow morning.  

Several people have inquired about remote learning asking why we can’t just hold school remotely when there is a snow day or other disruptions.  We are planning for this but first I want to address the reasons we have not tried to implement remote learning yet this year.  

  1. The State Board of Education and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction have clear guidelines for accountability and expectations that need to be met to count a remote learning as a school day.  This is significantly different from the guidelines we had when we were doing remote and hybrid learning. They also discourage the implementation of remote instruction unless it is absolutely necessary due to equity issues including but not limited to access to technology, connectivity, and the ability of students to engage in learning all day.  Eighty percent of the instruction has to be synchronous.  This means students would have to be on-line with their teachers most of the day.  We are not able to assign videos or independent work for more than twenty percent of the day.  This is a long time for students to be on-line in front of a screen. 
  2. Elementary students don’t all have individual devices assigned and for the most part they are not taking them home.  To prepare for remote learning we need to ensure all students have a device and the ability to connect to the internet.  
  3. Even with devices and connectivity in place, it has proved to be difficult to get students to engage in meaningful ways when on-line.  Attendance and engagement are challenges.
  4. While remote learning works for some students, it does not work for all students.  Equity is a major concern.  

If and only if school is closed tomorrow, staff will be involved in remote professional learning and planning to temporarily pivot to remote learning when needed.  When we have students in school for a day, we have a plan to distribute devices that students will be expected to bring to school charged and take home after school.  

 A few Whatcom County Districts have implemented remote learning this week.  However, most districts in our region have not done this yet.  Like us, they struggle with the concerns I listed above.  When and if we do implement remote learning, it will be temporary and only as long as needed.  I want to be clear that in-person learning remains a priority.  It is best for kids.
It is hard to drive through Deming and not notice our tents that did not hold up well with a foot of snow.  These tents were purchased to provide more outdoor covered space for students which mitigates COVID transmission. We are insured for these structures, so we are currently working with our insurance company to get them removed and replaced after this weather passes.  
The Whatcom County Health Department has been working with us and using our facilities to offer vaccination clinics throughout the District that are accessible to students and families as well as community members.  There have been some cancellations due to weather.  Here is a link for the latest information regarding COVID vaccinations and boosters.  
Thanks again for you support.  Let’s hope we get a reprieve from this weather soon and can finish out the year without so many distractions.  

Mary Sewright, Superintendent
(360) 617-4600