||School board targets a return to school this month for its youngest learners and specific student groups
Based on updated guidance from state health officials, Walla Walla Public Schools’ Board of Directors and administration is working with staff to adjust its reopening plans, paving the way for preschool through 5th grade students to resume in-person learning later this month. The revisions align current district plans with new state health and safety guidelines released late last month from the State Department of Health and the Governor’s Office.
The school board instructed Superintendent Smith and staff to implement safety, coordination and communication measures necessary to transition kindergarten through 5th grade students to in-person AM/PM hybrid learning on Monday, Jan. 25. Based on the board-reviewed framework, students in preschool and transitional kindergarten programs at the Walla Walla Center for Children & Families may begin in-person hybrid learning as soon as January 19. Under the state-aligned plan, students in self-contained Special Education programs, SEATech students and a limited number of high school students in Career and Technical Education and laboratory science programs will also be permitted to attend in-person lab sessions later this month. A select number of students in grades 6-12 who are struggling academically will also be served on campus for in-person distance learning with additional staff support. Consistent with new state guidance, the district will closely monitor local COVID cases as it eyes returning middle and high school students to in-person learning once case counts reach state-recommended levels.
“We understand remote learning has been a challenge for families and students across the district,” said School Board President Derek Sarley. “The good news is there is a significant amount of research showing we can offer safe in-person instruction as long as we are following all of the state guidelines. This is especially true if we start with our younger learners then gradually phase in the older students as we are able to keep kids safe in schools and as local conditions improve.”
According to state officials, numerous studies and research from credible sources like Harvard, MIT, Brown and other institutions have shown with a diligent focus on health and safety measures, it is possible to bring children back to the classroom safely while also protecting our students, staff and community from further transmission of COVID-19.
“To leave no rock unturned, we have also contracted with a third party agency to perform a comprehensive COVID Preparedness Review of our plans, protocols and facilities,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “This third party inspection, led by certified hygienists and licensed safety experts, will ensure we have thoroughly vetted and put into practice all of the latest CDC and WaDOH guidance, as we make safety our number one priority.”
Prospect Point Elementary Principal Barb Casey says she is excited to see students return to her campus.
“I know I can speak for all of my principal colleagues as we are so excited to welcome students back into our buildings,” said Casey. “This pandemic has really highlighted the importance of having kids in our schools and we cannot wait to see those eyes light up as they join us again on campus.”
Superintendent Smith says the district remains committed to transparency and communication as the district begins returning to in-person learning.
“It is critical to collaborate with staff, coordinate with departments and communicate with parents and students to ensure a safe and successful experience for all,” said Dr. Smith. “While there are still many things to work out as we prepare for this transition, trust we will work tirelessly to ensure it is successful.”
Walla Walla Public Schools will announce additional updates as planning continues regarding next steps. Visit the district’s website (www.wwps.org) for more details on the Safely Reopening Schools plan.
||New Chromebooks support 1:1 initiative
In preparation for the Walla Walla Public Schools’ revised 2020-21 Roadmap to Safely Reopening Schools, the Technology Department has been working on configuring over 1300 Chromebooks for K-2 students. In addition to their current checked-out Chromebooks, K-2 students will not be required to bring their assigned Chromebooks to school. It will remain at home for these students. Each elementary K-2 classroom will have a dedicated Chromebook for students to use.
Special thanks to:
• Kim Cassetto and Sara Strickland for cataloging more than 1300 new Chromebooks.
• Shane Jacobson and Jorge Gallaga for setting up and preparing Chromebooks.
• Support Services crew for helping set up and transporting approximately 100 Mini-Carts
||January is School Board Appreciation Month
January is School Board Appreciation Month in Washington state and a time to express sincere gratitude to these five dedicated volunteer public officials.
Mr. Derek Sarley, Board President and member since 2015
Mrs. Ruth Ladderud, Board Vice President and member since 2012
Mr. Eric Rindal, Board member since 2019
Mrs. Terri Trick, Board member since 2018
Mr. Sam Wells, Board member since 2014
“School board members maintain a tremendous responsibility,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “As publically-elected officials they volunteer countless hours to ensure all students of Walla Walla Public Schools graduate with the skills and abilities to lead successful adult lives.”
Walla Walla school board members spend considerable time crafting policies, adopting curriculum, participating in ongoing professional development, ensuring financial accountability, and preserving the historic investment in our school facilities.
“Once a year is far too infrequent to recognize and honor the dedication, hard work, and selfless commitment of our school board members,” said Dr. Smith. “However, I would ask that you please take a moment this month to thank those who currently serve and those who have served before them. The future success of our students, Walla Walla community, and democracy depends on the continued leadership and guidance from our devoted and representative school board.”
||Early Dismissal and No School Days
• Early Dismissal (All Students) - Friday, Jan. 15
• No School – Monday, Jan. 18 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Holiday)
||WIAA Executive Board Revises Season 1 Sports in Response to State Guidelines
RENTON, Wash. (Released by WIAA Jan. 6, 2021) – The WIAA Executive Board voted to amend its season schedule on Wednesday, moving traditional fall sports to WIAA Season 1 while choosing to review Seasons 2 and 3 at its Jan. 19 meeting.
WIAA Season 1 will span seven weeks in length, beginning with pre-competition practices on Feb. 1 and ending on March 20. The sports scheduled for that season include cross country, football, golf (alternate), slowpitch softball, girls and 1B/2B boys soccer, girls swim and dive, tennis (alternate) and volleyball.
The change comes after Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday the “Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery” plan which outlined a new set of guidelines and metrics for the resumption of education-based athletics and activities in Washington. Sports will maintain their previously assigned risk levels; however, the level of participation for each activity will vary in Phase 1 or Phase 2.
“The change in guidelines allow all traditional fall sports to be played in Phase 2 while we still do not have a clear pathway to the high risk indoor activities of basketball, competitive cheer and dance, and wrestling” said WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman. “With that in mind, moving fall sports to Season 1 will hopefully provide the most opportunities to participate.”
While the Executive Board will provide a uniform season schedule concluding in regional culminating events, it has granted each WIAA league or district around the state the ability to reschedule seasons to best fit their local communities.
WIAA staff will continue to work with the Department of Health to gain more clarity surrounding the guidelines that were issued on Jan. 5.
“We are hoping to receive more details that were not included in the Governor’s announcement on Tuesday, particularly surrounding indoor sports and activities,” Hoffman said. “As we continue to gather more information and evaluate the new metrics, the Board will be able to make better decisions about the remainder of the year.”
In addition to changing the sports scheduled for WIAA Season 1, the Board voted to extend the open coaching period at each school up until the day before the first season begins at that school.
The Health Center expands services
The Health Center is expanding its services for students in grades 6-12. The Health Center is now offering its free medical health care visits for students virtually, via computer, easily accessed through student Chromebooks. If students are experiencing non-emergency headaches, eye problems, skin problems, stomach problems, breathing issues, sleep problems, joint or muscular pain, anxiety, cold symptoms or cough, sore throat or reproductive health issues, they or their parent(s) can contact THC at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a virtual appointment. Parent permission is required for students under age 18 and a fillable form will be provided to be completed before the visit. Appointments are available Monday through Friday and providers will help with referrals if additional care is needed. In-person visits are available for vaccines and physicals as well.
||Walla Walla-Columbia School Retirees Association announces scholarship opportunity
• Three $2,000 scholarships
• Scholarship grants are given to prospective teachers and/or candidates in other school related fields who will student teach or do an internship experience in an educational setting to meet requirements for initial certification.
1. Graduate of high school in Walla Walla or Columbia County
2. Student teach/internship between September 2021 and June 2022
An on-line application is available on the Blue Mountain Community Foundation website. Go to the scholarship tab and locate the Walla Walla Columbia School Retirees application.
Contact for more information: Mardel Bierwagen at 525-6117 or email@example.com
Applications available: January 1, 2021
Application due: March 1, 2021