Issaquah Superintendent announces fully remote start to fall classes

The recommendation will be presented at the school board meeting Thursday

Issaquah School District

Issaquah School District

Following many similar announcements from neighboring districts, Issaquah schools will begin the year 100% remote.

The recommendation from Superintendent Ron Thiele was published Tuesday, July 28, citing the increase of COVID-19 cases, evolving information, and the regional decisions from other educational institutions to start fall online-only.

More information will be released in the coming weeks and the district develops details of their plans. Theile stated he will also explain more of his rational at the 6 p.m., Thursday, July 30 school board meeting, and the school board will share their decision, which the public can watch on Zoom.

Issaquah School District recently completed a survey for parents and staff on it’s original alternatives for the fall that included a combination of in-person and remote learning, the amount of in-person class time depending on grade and maintaining distance.

Thiele acknowledged in the recommendation the inequities that can exist with fully remote learning, and said they will improve communication and distance learning based off feedback from the springtime.

The full recommendation is available below:

Over the last several weeks we have been actively engaged in developing school reopening and reimagining plans for the 2020-21 school year. I have previously written about this process and again want to express my sincere gratitude to the ISD staff, parents and students who have participated in this important planning work. We have also conducted a number of surveys for parents and staff. I appreciate all of you who participated in these surveys providing valuable information to our planning teams. The Board and I have also received numerous emails from families and staff sharing their thoughts and concerns related to the safe operations of our school system. We all want to see our students in-person and believe that live in-person instruction is preferred, but only if it can be done in a manner that keeps everyone healthy and safe.

As our work continued in this very dynamic pandemic environment we began to watch the virus infection numbers increase. Starting around July 20, Public Health Officials from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties began to share their concerns related to bringing students back into our school buildings and supported remote learning, given the current rate of infection and the increase in daily positive cases of COVID-19. During this same timeframe the Governor announced a rollback on some social interactions while emphasizing the need for expanded and routine use of face coverings. As a result of this evolving information most of the public school districts and higher education institutions in our region have announced plans to start the school year with remote teaching. It is with this backdrop that I am announcing today that I am recommending to the Issaquah School Board that we start the 2020-21 school year in a fully remote setting.

Please know that the ISD School Board, ISD staff and I are all very aware that some students and families will be more negatively impacted by this decision. The challenge ahead for us is to determine ways to better communicate with and support these students and their families. We also know that this new era of distance learning must be significantly improved from the crisis-driven remote learning we were so abruptly forced into this past spring. Teaching and Learning Services has already begun the work to improve our ISD Distance Learning experience for students and families in the fall. We are building off the information we learned during our ThoughtExchange engagement last spring and all of the comments we heard from parents, students and teachers in order to improve our approach to distance learning.

Please stay tuned in the coming days and weeks as we develop and share more details about what students and families can expect once school starts this September. ISD administrators will be negotiating with our labor groups, as we creatively problem solve issues and determine their role in the delivery of the District’s educational mission in this digital learning environment. I invite you to join the School Board Meeting on Thursday, July 30, at 6 p.m. on Zoom to listen to the discussion, listen to the greater detail of my rationale, and hear the Board’s decision regarding my recommendation. Our sole focus over the next several weeks will be to strive to create a distance learning system that better serves the needs of all ISD students; communicate how to connect to your school, to your classroom and student peers; and be ready to offer meaningful learning experiences come September.

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