• Community Update

    July 6, 2020

    To all South Bend Parents, Students, and Community Members-

    I want to update you on our planning progress for reopening school this Fall.  Since my last update in mid-June, we have been working to better understand the school requirements as put out by the Governor's Office, OSPI, and the Health Department.  School administrators and staff have been working with these requirements in mind, as well as the parent feedback data that continues to come in through our June 23 survey.  We are also collaborating with the Pacific County Health Department and other Pacific County school districts through a weekly "reopening schools" workgroup.
    Though no plans have been finalized, I want to share some of the things we know as of today.  Again, I share these with the intention of being transparent and open about our planning.
    What we know
    At this point, we know the Governor and State Health Department is requiring all students and staff members be socially distanced while in our school buildings, and they must also wear a facial covering.  These two requirements alone will result in our face-to-face school looking different, primarily because we do not have the physical space or staff to distance all our students at the same time.  As a result, schools across the region and state are considering different face-to-face options.  In South Bend, one of the options being considered is an am/pm (two student "shifts") face-to-face instructional model four days per week, where the fifth day would be a staff planning/student-focus day. Another option would be an A/B every other day, face-to-face instructional model for four days a week, with the fifth day being a staff planning/student-focus day.  
    The input we received through our survey includes parents not wanting their students to have to be in masks for long periods of time, as well as a desire for more consistent face-to-face instruction from our teachers.  This input is directing our consideration toward the four-day, am/pm instructional model.  Essentially, students in this model would attend school onsite for a 3.5 hour shift (either morning or afternoon), four days per week.  The other half of the day where students are not onsite at school would be for structured learning at home.  The fifth day of the week would be structured learning at home, and/or needed student focus time at school for specialized services.  With the am/pm model, students would not have to be in a mask for full days at a time, and they would get to see their teachers four days per week, as opposed to two days per week.  Finally, students coming to school four days per week, even if just for half a day, will help us better provide special education services, mental health services, and more effective instruction and learning for all.  Again, this model has not been finalized, but we are vetting the model as a strong possibility.  It is still possible we will have to use a different model, especially if health conditions change in our area.
    Other planning underway
    We realize that some parents may not be ready to send their children back to school in the Fall.  If parents choose not to send their children to our face-to-face school program, we are planning to offer a fully remote school model as well as assistance for parents intending to homeschool.  Whichever decision parents make for their children, we desire to offer supports as much as possible.  Please feel free to reach out to us if you have questions.
    Finally, thank you for your continued patience.  Schools have never had to conduct planning like this, and we have never been impacted by these current circumstances facing a new school year.  Our staff are all working hard to develop a school model that meets the needs of our students, protects the health and safety of everyone in our buildings, and continues to deliver quality learning.  
    In my next update, I will share on our continued planning with regards to above, as well as planning for school bus transportation, food service, and planned preventative measures for face-to-face interactions in our school buildings.
    Please feel free to contact me directly for any questions, ideas, or concerns, at jtienhaa@southbendschools.org, or 875-6041.
    Jon Tienhaara