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Ferndale School District communication updates and information resources

Distance learning continues in the Ferndale School District while school buildings are closed. Governor Jay Inslee mandated that all K-12 schools in Washington close for traditional, in-person learning due to COVID-19 in March 2020. This web page provides communication updates and resources.
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Ferndale School District Information Update

A letter to families from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sent Wednesday, October 7, 2020 with an information update.

Find previous communication update letters archived below the latest featured update.

Dear Ferndale Families,

First, I want to thank you for your above-and-beyond efforts to support your children and their education during the first 25 days of school. Our principals, teachers, and staff have been working harder than they ever have, but that’s their job. We know you’ve taken on the extra work of supporting your kids’ schooling at home in addition to your other jobs. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your partnership and persistence.

With the first month of 2020-2021 behind us, I am writing to you today to let you know our plans for the rest of October and November.

As in most of the other districts in the region, we have been planning for transitioning kids back into some level of in-person learning ever since we made the decision to begin the school year fully remote. Our 60-person Reopening Task Force included modified in-person learning models in the plan that was approved by the School Board and submitted to the state. Our administrators and teacher leadership groups have been talking since last summer about all of the details we need to address to bring students back safely. We revisited the topic of in-person learning with the School Board at their meeting on Tuesday, September 29. I have been meeting weekly with the other superintendents in our region and regularly with officials from the Health Department. I have also been getting lots of input from parents -- some of whom aren't ready to send their children to an in-person learning setting, but many who are very anxious to get their kids back into physical classrooms with their teachers.

The question I have been asked most frequently during the past couple of weeks is this: “When are you going to give us specific dates when kids will be allowed to return to some level of in-person learning?” Through all of the conversations I referenced above, along with careful attention to the metrics of the virus, we have developed a timeline to answer that question for our students with highest needs and our youngest learners.

Before I share the timeline with you, I want to say a few words about the metrics established by the Health Department and adopted by the State of Washington to determine when schools can provide in-person learning. These metrics are divided into three bands:

  • High Risk is when there has been the equivalent of more than 75 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period. If the rate is above 75, we will consult with the Health Department about whether we need to suspend in-person services.
  • Moderate Risk is when there has been the equivalent of 25-75 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period. If the rate is between 25 and 75, the Health Department says we can provide in-person learning as long as we follow all safety guidelines (such as requiring health attestations; assuring appropriate PPE; physical distancing; meeting cleaning and personal hygiene standards; cohorting to the greatest extent possible; and having in place a plan for isolation, contact tracing, and testing).
  • Low Risk is when there has been the equivalent of fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period. If the rate is below 25, the Health Department says we can move closer to “regular school,” as long as we still adhere to the safety guidelines related to health attestations, masks, distancing as much as possible, cleaning, personal hygiene, and contact tracing.

According to these metrics, Whatcom County has been in the moderate risk zone (25-75) since last spring. (I should note here that the Health Department always talks in terms of the county rate, not the rate in individual school districts, with the rationale that people move between districts on a daily basis.)

Even though we were in the moderate zone at the beginning of August, the Health Department advised us we should open schools fully remote in September, because the county rate had gone above 60 and was trending upwards. Knowing that planning takes time, Dr. Stern, the Chief Medical Advisor at the Whatcom County Health Department, met with the seven Whatcom County superintendents and told us we needed to focus our planning on a distance learning model for all students. By the time we started school on September 2, the trendline in Whatcom County had already begun to reverse itself. On August 31, Dr. Stern sent the Whatcom County superintendents a letter with revised guidance, telling us that, in light of the downward trend, we could start cautiously planning to bring some students into our schools. This second letter from the Health Department gave us confidence to open our Safe Remote Access Sites on the first day of school. It also caused us to resume planning the in-person models outlined by the Reopening Task Force.

Yesterday, the Whatcom County superintendents met again with four officials from the Health Department to get the latest information about the virus and to share our plans with them. At that meeting, Dr. Stern, said the written guidance he provided on August 31 (link here) still holds. With that endorsement, we are moving forward with the following timeline, which I shared with our district staff last Friday.

October 19:  Students in Developmental Pre-School, Life Skills Classrooms, and Self-Contained Behavior Classrooms; students with complex IEPs; and Emerging and Progressing English Language Learners (whose parents choose) are phased into in-person learning to meet their individual needs.                               

October 19:  All Kindergarteners (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model, which includes two days per week of in-person learning and three days per week of distance learning.

October 26:  All 1st graders (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model

November 2:  All 2nd and 3rd grade (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model.

November 9:  All 4th and 5th grade (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model.

Right now, this is the plan for bringing back our elementary students and our students with highest needs. However, given the uncertain nature of the virus, I want to make sure everyone knows we may need to alter the plan or put it on hold altogether, if (1) we see a spike in community spread of the virus; (2) we experience outbreak(s) in a classroom, building, or district as a whole; or (3) we are unable to meet health and safety guidelines.

We are still working on a plan for starting in-person learning for the majority of secondary-level students. Because secondary students take multiple classes each day in different groupings with different teachers, the safety guidance is much harder to achieve at that level. Because secondary students are more capable of using technology independently than little learners, some of whom are still mastering reading, many of our middle and high schoolers are doing better with online learning. However, we know we also need to address the needs of secondary students, and our secondary staff are working on a plan that I hope to be able to share with everyone within a week.

I’m sure you have questions about the information I have laid out in this letter. We are currently in the process of creating a Question & Answer document for our website. You should also look for more details from me and/or your building principal during the week of October 12.

Thank you again for all you are doing. I can’t tell you how excited we are to see some of our kids in person this month! As always, reach out if there’s something you want to discuss. With that said, please consider waiting a few days for our Q&As -- if you can.


Archived Letters from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn:

Week of August 10 - August 14

Week of August 3 - August 7

Week of July 27 - July 31

Week of July 13 - July 17

Week of June 29 - July 3

Week of June 15 - June 19

Week of June 8 - June 12

Week of June 1 - June 5

Week of May 18 - May 22

Week of May 10 - May 16

Week of May 3 - May 9

Week of April 26 - May 2

Week of April 19 - April 25

Week of April 12 - April 18

Week of April 5 - April 11

Week of March 29 - April 4

Week of March 22 - March 28

Week of March 15 - March 21

Week of March 8 - March 14

Week of March 1 - March 7

Week of February 23 - February 29

Quick Links Resources

Concern or question?

Student and staff safety is our top priority. If you have a question, concern or comment about any health or safety issue, please let us know.

Ask here

Additional resources

Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention