These are challenging times, said Mercer Island School District board president Deborah Lurie.
As the school year nears — one that will begin remotely — Lurie thanked parent volunteers, teachers, staff and the leadership team for diligently preparing for classes to begin on Sept. 2 during a community linkage session on Aug. 11 via Zoom.
The webinar focused on the schools reopening plan and safety requirements and was attended by board members, instructors, administrators and student representatives.
“I know we’ve got a tremendous amount of anxiety because of the unknown, but things are getting planned as we speak,” said Lurie, adding that families will receive the pertinent information as it becomes available.
During the final 30 minutes of the hour-long webinar, attendees answered seven of the 75 questions — covering elementary, middle and high school concerns — that community members supplied via email by Aug. 10.
Jamie Prescott, director of Learning Services, noted that staff members in the middle and high school realm will receive Zoom and Schoology training for one hour each and elementary staffers will receive Seesaw and Zoom training. They are looking for predictable and consistent ways to engage students on these platforms.
Lurie added that they value the professionalism of their teachers and they rely on them to make the best classroom decisions during the many changes each of them face these days.
On the high school level, there will be a small selection of advanced placement courses available through My Online, and there will be online modules on tap for lab sciences courses. Also on the high school front, mandatory attendance will be required for the twice-weekly Islander Hour, during which staff members connect with students to build relationships while discussing myriad topics like college counseling and planning and more.
As far as attendance in general for all district students, teachers will check throughout the day to make sure students are engaged.
In the special services realm, in-person evaluations began on Aug. 3 and a district psychologist will continue working throughout the summer, meeting with families and writing reports.
School board vice president Maggie Tai Tucker spoke about the Decision Tree for Provision of In-Person Learning, a state-wide matrix that will keep students learning while focusing on the health and safety of students, families, staff and the community. For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/yxuha29c
“We are concerned first about our students’ physical and emotional well-being. That being said, we know that our students are healthiest when the parents supporting them are healthy, too,” said Lurie, noting that the PTA Council is working hard to provide support for everyone. She added that community partners’ child care options will be available, and the district will provide free and reduced-price lunches.
Board member and Legislative representative Brian Giannini Upton spoke on the webinar regarding Thursday networking calls he’s participated in with the Washington State School Directors’ Association. They’ve been updated on recent information released by the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Board of Education, The Office of the Governor and King County and state public health.
In addition, the Mercer Island School District has partnered with the Northshore, Bellevue, Issaquah and Lake Washington districts — which represent about 10 percent of Washington students — to focus on vital issues. They’ve also been in contact with Rep. Adam Smith, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell for input.
Key issues have been anti-bodies testing and tracing, child care, transportation funding and full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“I’m really proud to advocate on behalf of the school district,” Giannini Upton said.
The webinar can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/5q0lg62HP7w