Ferndale School District Communication Updates and Information Resources
Friday, April 2, 2021
Ferndale School District Information Update
A letter families from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sent Friday, April 2, 2021 with an information update.
Find previous communication update letters archived below the latest featured update.
Dear Ferndale Families,
I am writing to let you know where we are with plans to expand in-person learning in Ferndale.
We have decided to return to five days per week of in-person instruction for all students who are currently in our hybrid model on Thursday, April 29. To give staff time to prepare their spaces for this transition, the first three days of that week (April 26, 27, and 28) will be asynchronous (remote) learning days for all students.
Ever since Governor Inslee announced new health guidelines for Washington schools on March 25, we have been processing what the guidelines mean for Ferndale. They are not as simple as putting twice as many students in our schools. The new three-foot rule only applies to the space between students in classrooms. We still need to provide six feet of space in all common areas and any place where people have their masks off, like hallways and lunchrooms. We still need to follow all of the other mitigation strategies, like checking daily attestations and contact tracing. Fulfilling these requirements with twice as many students takes significant planning, physical rearrangement of spaces, and hiring additional staff.
We have a great deal of work to do to get ready for this next transition, including figuring out what kinds of changes we need to implement for our remote learners to ensure they and their teachers are being treated equitably. Here are some of the steps we have planned:
- We are hosting a meeting this afternoon of district leaders, building leaders, union leaders, and volunteers to engage in collaborative problem solving about expansion of in-person learning and any concurrent changes in remote learning.
- We are making plans for maintenance and custodial personnel to move furniture into schools and classrooms over Spring Break, so we can see what additional items we will need to get. (Even at three feet, the space requirements mean we can’t use all of the tables we had been using prior to the pandemic.)
- We are working on hiring additional staff for supervision, classroom assistance, and/or other support.
- We are figuring out how to restructure routines and protocols for recess, passing periods, and lunch times in a way that meets the guidelines with twice as many students.
- We are reviewing school schedules to determine where they may need to be revised.
- We are continuing to partner with our bargaining groups to ensure we have appropriately addressed staff needs and concerns.
Based on my most recent meeting with the Whatcom County Health Department and other Whatcom County Superintendents, I am confident the plans we are making for moving forward will comply with WCHD recommendations. We will continue to work in close partnership with WCHD to ensure we are effectively mitigating risks to keep our students, staff, and community safe, while addressing the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students.
We still have lots of details to work out. You can expect to hear more specifics from us during the weeks following Spring Break, but I wanted to give you this general information today so you could plan accordingly.
Thank you for your ongoing support and patience during this year of challenges and changes. On behalf of the whole district staff, I want to express our gratitude for all you have done to partner with us. We are proud of our safety record to date. I assure you we are planning carefully so that we can continue to maintain a safe environment for students and staff.
Best wishes for a wonderful Spring Break.
Archived Letters from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn:
Dear Ferndale Families,
I am writing to confirm that we are still on track to bring our secondary students back into classrooms in a hybrid model beginning on Monday, February 1.
I know this has been a hot topic in our community during the past week. The School Board and I have received 40 pages of emails and letters from parents and staff, and we have read and considered every word of every one of them. I know opinions about whether to reopen, the best way to reopen, and when to reopen differ, but ultimately we decided to move forward with the plan and timeline we have advertised since the week we returned from Winter Break. It is a plan based on an updated version of the hybrid model developed by the 80-member Reopening Task Force last summer, approved by the School Board on August 18, shared with all district staff and families on January 8, and reviewed and approved by Whatcom Health Department officials on January 15.
If you have middle or high school students intending to take advantage of the hybrid model (part in-person and part remote), I suspect you have questions about details. I want to tell you about three places you can get answers to your questions:
First, the principals in each of our secondary schools (Horizon, Vista, and Ferndale High School) have been and will continue to send out information specific to their buildings. Watch for news from your school.
Second, we have included a great deal of information in the reopening document that is posted on our district website at this link: https://bit.ly/2MswxRe.
Third, we invite you to tune into our Every Thursday Facebook Live program at 4:00 pm on January 28, where our high school principals, district leaders, and I will be on the screen to provide information and answer questions. You can send your question in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can type them into Facebook during the program.
We are very excited to see our middle and high school students again, beginning on Monday, February 1 (for those in the AA cohort) or on Thursday, February 4 (for those in the BB cohort). Thank you for your ongoing patience and support.
All my best,
Dear Ferndale Staff and Families,
I want to remind you about our schedule next week, which includes two holidays, three school days, and lots of opportunities for learning.
Monday (January 18) is the federal holiday to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King reminded us of our deep flaws as a society as well as our potential for compassion and goodness. Through his famous “I have a dream” speech, he continues to remind us of our capacity to dream of a better world.
Many of our teachers have incorporated lessons about the legacy of Dr. King into their teaching over the past two weeks. At the high school, for instance, a group of students worked with their advisor to arrange an online assembly with a guest speaker from Western Washington University who talked about using modern technologies for uniting rather than dividing our society.
Even our youngest students have been learning about the significance of Dr. King in the history of our country. After a lesson on his most famous speech, the students in Kacey DiJulio’s kindergarten class created this poster with all their dreams and hopes for the world.
Reading Ms. Julio’s students’ poster, I couldn’t help but remember the book written by Robert Fulghum in the 1980s called All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. When it comes to a vision for a better future, our kindergartners nailed it.
On Monday (January 18) we will suspend classes in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Then on Friday (January 22) Ferndale School District will be closed in recognition of Treaty Day.
Our students will be learning about the significance of the Treaty Day through their classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and/or Thursday of next week. They will learn (or be reminded) that on January 22, 1855, the United States of America entered into a solemn agreement with the Lummi Nation. On that day 166 years ago, representatives from these two independent sovereign nations came together and made promises to one another about how their respective peoples would share the land and resources of this region. The School Board and administrative leaders of the Ferndale School District want to make sure every student knows that Treaty Day is an important part of all of our history. Since it is a federal holiday in the sovereign Lummi Nation, we believe it is fitting to mark the date on our school district calendar as well.
To provide the necessary background for our lessons on Treaty Day, we are fortunate to have access to an educational video created and produced for us by Children of the Setting Sun Productions. Depending on their grade level, students will view all or part of the video, which you can access in full at this link: https://youtu.be/l-QgKrDvAC8
On Wednesday (January 20), between our recognition of these two important historical events, our nation -- and our children -- will witness history in the making with the inauguration of a new President of the United States. In this year like no other, it will undoubtedly be an inauguration like no other. If you are thinking about how to talk to your children about the event, you might find useful information in this online resource: A Parent’s Guide to Watching the 2021 Inauguration With Your Kids at https://www.romper.com/life/how-to-watch-2021-inauguration-kids-families
As I said when I began, we have lots of opportunities for learning next week. Thank you again for working with us in whole new ways this past year to facilitate your students’ learning. We appreciate your efforts, your sacrifices, and your partnership.
All my best,
Dear Ferndale Families,
Happy New Year. I hope you and your children had a good Winter Break and a successful first week back to school.
Right before we headed into Winter Break, I let you know that we had received a green light from the Whatcom Health Department to bring our secondary students back into some level of in-person learning in the new year. I committed to sharing our district’s plan and timeline by the end of the first week in January. That is the purpose of this letter.
In a nutshell, here is our plan for in-person learning for secondary students.
- At the beginning of second semester, which is the week of February 1-5, we will bring back all of our secondary students (grades 6-12) who choose to return to in-person learning.
- They will come back on a hybrid AA-BB (Monday/Tuesday--Thursday/Friday) schedule, just like students do in our elementary schools. (Because of the complexities of secondary scheduling, we are still working out which students will be assigned AA days and which will be assigned BB days.)
- Their daily schedule will be much the same as it was prior to the pandemic, with similar start and end times.
- Wednesdays will remain asynchronous learning days.
Also right before we headed into Winter Break, we sent you a survey to find out whether you would choose to have your student(s) return to in-person learning when that option becomes available. Thank you to all of you who returned your surveys. If you did not, please contact your child(ren)’s school.
We are also working on a plan for accommodating our students who said they do not want to come back to in-person learning. Here are our plan(s) for remote learning for secondary students. (Because of different needs and conditions, the middle school delivery model for remote students will be different than the high school model.)
- At our middle schools, where all students experience a more standard curriculum, we are creating a separate “school within a school” with dedicated teachers who will just be working with remote learners. Although we believe this is the best option for leaners, we know it will create the need for some schedule changes for both students and staff.
- At the high school, where the master schedule is very complex, student schedules are very diverse, and we have to ensure students can get all the classes they need for graduation, all teachers will livestream their lessons.
- That means, on their assigned cohort (AA or BB) days, remote high school students will Zoom into their classes and watch their teachers on their screens.
- Remote students at the middle level will continue in the same remote model they have been using since September, although student schedules and teacher assignments may change.
Please be assured that we will be following all of the health and safety guidelines in our secondary schools that we have already implemented in our elementary schools, and we will make sure staff and students are trained on these expectations. The encouraging news is that we have amassed a great deal of evidence that the mitigation strategies we have in place work. To date, we have had no indication of transmission of the virus inside one of our schools, even when we have experienced positive cases.
We still have lots of details to work out over the next few weeks, which we will be doing in partnership with the Whatcom Health Department and our staff. However, we are excited to be taking this next step.
I suspect you have a number of questions. We don’t have all of the answers yet, but we will keep you posted as our plans develop. Your next opportunity for any update on our reopening plan for secondary students will occur next Thursday (January 14, 4:00 pm), where we will devote our whole Every Thursday Facebook Live program to this topic.
Thank you so much for your patience and partnership.
All my best,
Dear Ferndale Families,
You are probably aware of Governor Inslee’s press conference on Wednesday of this week (December 16). Based on the science showing that schools with strict safety measures in place are not contributing the spread of the virus, the Governor encouraged local districts to work with their local health departments to start expanding in-person learning to the extent that local resources (both people and other resources) will allow.
Since the Governor held his press conference, I have met with Dr. Stern of the Whatcom Health Department and the superintendents of the other Whatcom County school districts to talk about recommendations for getting our secondary students (grades 6-12) back into some level of in-person learning. I have also met with our Ferndale administrators and principals to resume our planning process for reopening our secondary schools, and we have begun to schedule meetings with other staff who need to be involved in this process as well.
We determined this morning that, before we can go too far with our planning, we need to find out from families of secondary students whether they will choose to have their children return to in-person learning when that option becomes available. For this purpose, we developed a short survey, which we are sending out this afternoon to families of students in grades 6-12. You can alsofind a link on our District website.
Our goal is to be able to inform the community by the end of the first week in January of our district plan and timeline for resuming in-person learning at our middle and high schools. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get our older students back into their classrooms, even if only part-time at first. However, we will proceed cautiously, because we cannot afford to compromise the safety precautions that have protected us so far.
I know this year has been incredibly difficult for many. As 2020 winds down and we head into Winter Break, I send my best wishes for a safe and healthy holiday season and a new year that brings an end to this coronavirus pandemic. Please know I am grateful for the way you have allowed us to partner with you in educating your children while keeping them safe. I am thankful for your patience, persistence, and support of the Ferndale School District team. I am hopeful for better days ahead.
Merry Christmas to you and yours,
Dear Ferndale Families,
I want to give you an update on the latest information from the Whatcom Health Department and what it means for us in the Ferndale School District.
As I am sure you know, the virus rate in Whatcom County remains high. Earlier this week, Governor Inslee extended his restrictions on many Washington businesses and activities through January 4. However, thanks to you and to the diligence of our Ferndale staff, we still have had no evidence of virus transmission in our schools or any other Whatcom County schools. We know that a few of our students and staff have contracted the virus, but “no transmission in our schools” means that they have not gotten the virus at school, nor have they passed it to anyone else at school.
On December 4, I met with representatives of the other County school districts and officials from the Whatcom Health Department, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Stern. The upshot of our meeting is that we are remaining on the course I described to you in my November 25 letter. That is, we will maintain our in-person services to elementary students and secondary students with greatest needs by following all of the recommended safety precautions, which include regular screening of both staff and students, wearing masks and other PPE, practicing good hand hygiene, maintaining physical distance, cohorting and avoiding large groups.
The data continues to show that, with these reasonable precautions, schools are not driving virus transmission. When the pandemic began, we were afraid they would. However, the science has not played out that way. Small outbreaks (defined as just two or three people transmitting the virus to one another) have occurred in some schools, although, as we have reported, not in any Ferndale schools or other Whatcom County schools to date. And large outbreaks have been uncommon in all schools where safety measures are in place. Our protocols work; our families and staff are doing an excellent job implementing them; and, as a result, we are successfully minimizing risks.
Based on the most current research, the Whatcom Health Department is no longer using a numerical threshold related to community spread of the virus to determine when to close elementary schools. You probably remember when we started this journey, we were given a range of 25-75 cases per 100,000 of population as the “moderate risk zone” for schools. Then there was discussion about increasing those numbers. At this point, the medical experts have determined that community transmission rates are not reflected in school transmission rates. So, rather than using a community metric, the Whatcom Health Department has committed to monitoring actual cases and transmissions occurring within schools and using this data-- in combination with other factors related to our staffs’ capacity (both in the District and the Health Department) to run classes, follow up on symptoms, do contact tracing, and so on -- to make any necessary decisions about school closures.
Again, the first reason for moving away from a community metric to determine when to close elementary schools is lack of evidence that young children in those schools where safety precautions are in place are contributing to the spread of the virus. The second reason is that young children are considered high needs students when it comes to in-person learning.
When I last wrote to you on November 25, I explained that Dr. Stern, on the other hand, made the strong recommendation that all middle and high school students, except those with the greatest needs, should move back to or -- in our case in Ferndale -- remain in full remote learning mode while the community case numbers remain high. The different treatment of secondary students is based on (1) research about more virus spread among older students and (2) the nearly impossible task of maintaining small cohorts when students are attending various classes in the same day.
You may have also heard talk recently about the CDC’s shortening the quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days, or even less when combined with testing. The second recommendation that came out of our December 4 meeting with Dr. Stern is that the Whatcom Health Department recommends we stick with the 14-day quarantine period out of an abundance of caution. Dr. Stern shared that after 14 days the risk of residual transmission is just .1% (read that as point one, or one tenth of one, percent), whereas after 10 days the risk of residual transmission increases to 1% (read that as one percent). In other words, the risk is ten times greater after 10 days than it is after 14 days. Therefore, any exception to this 14-day quarantine rule will only be made if a particular case has been reviewed and approved by the Health Department.
In a nutshell, I am writing to let you know we are not implementing any changes in what we are doing in our school district at this time.
The key phrase in that last statement is “at this time.” We have all learned that our situation can change rapidly. As such, returning to remote learning for all students and staff may become necessary with very little lead time during the weeks ahead. Since I know this will create significant challenges for many of you, I encourage you to make a contingency plan.
Before I sign off for today, I want to share one more piece of information about a free testing site at testdirectly.com. Right now, this is the easiest place I know about for you to get a COVID test if you need to -- or if you just want to.
I appreciate all of your persistence, patience, and partnership in educating your precious children. The steps you are taking to follow safety protocols is helping us keep our schools open. I also appreciate the incredible efforts of our staff -- our teachers, paraeducators, counselors, and principals of course, but also all of the staff working night and day behind the scenes to make it possible for us to educate your students in the middle of a pandemic. I hope you will join me in sending your virtual gratitude to the nurses, custodians, bus drivers, administrative assistants, food service staff, and technical support personnel who are such important members of our Ferndale School District team.
All my best for a safe and healthy holiday season,
Dear Ferndale Staff and Families,
With COVID cases on the rise across our region, we are continuing to monitor the situation closely, in consultation with the Whatcom Health Department. The County superintendents met this morning with Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Stern, to discuss the current trends and hear his latest guidance.
The latest guidance from Whatcom Health is for any County districts that already have middle and high school students attending classes in person to move them back into full remote learning mode no later than December 4, 2020. This does not include secondary students with greatest needs, such as those who require complex special education services or those who do not have internet access in their homes. Therefore, this new guidance does not impact what we are currently doing in Ferndale.
We talked at length this morning about whether we also need to transition elementary students currently in the hybrid model back to full remote learning. At this time, based on the science, Dr. Stern is not making that recommendation. “In younger kids, transmission rates are lower and the negative impacts of remote learning are higher,” he explained. Although COVID-19 rates have continued to increase markedly in the community, elementary schools where health and safety measures are in place are not contributing to that increase.
From the beginning, we have committed to following the guidance of the Whatcom Health Department. Since we do not have middle and high school students attending regular classes in Ferndale, today’s Health Department guidance does not require an immediate modification in what we are doing. However, as we have learned during the past eight months, the situation can change rapidly. Returning to remote learning for all students and staff may become necessary with very little lead time during the weeks ahead. I know this will create significant challenges for many families, so I encourage you to begin now to prepare for that possibility.
In the meantime, I appreciate your vigilance in following all safety guidelines and letting us know whenever you become aware of a concern or possible breach. We are continuing to follow up daily on every situation in our schools that could involve exposure to the virus.
I want to wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving. I also want to make these two requests: First, please follow state and local guidance this holiday weekend by avoiding travel and gatherings beyond your immediate family. Second, if you have any reason to believe you or your children have been exposed to COVID-19, please do not come to in-person school next week. To date, we have zero evidence of any transmission of the virus on our campuses. With your help, we will have a better chance of continuing that trend.
All my best,
Dear Ferndale Families,
With all the news about the number of COVID cases on the rise, I am sure you have questions about how this is impacting our plans in the Ferndale School District. I want to start by saying that many things have changed over the course of the pandemic, but these three basic principles have remained constant:
- We are committed to the health and safety of staff and students as our top priority.
- We are committed to providing the highest quality, most equitable education we can to all of our students without jeopardizing their health and safety, the health and safety of our staff, or the health and safety of our community.
- We are committed to working closely with our local Whatcom County Health Department and making our decisions based on the guidance they provide to us.
When the Governor came out with his new restrictions last Sunday (November 15), he stated clearly that he was not closing schools, because there have been very few cases of in-school transmission of the virus. Rather, he directed local districts to work with their local Health Departments to decide how to proceed in their local setting.
The following day (November 16), the State Superintendent of Public Instruction sent an email to all Washington Superintendents following up on the Governor’s new mandates. I am including the text of Superintendent Reykdal’s email here because it contains some links that you may find useful.
Yesterday, Governor Inslee announced a four-week statewide set of restrictions in response to the recent rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.
You may have questions about what the new restrictions mean for K–12 schools. As they have been throughout the phased county-by-county reopening, school districts are exempt from the restrictions.
The Governor and our state’s public health experts continue to emphasize the importance of school reopening and prioritize local decision-making in doing so. As you continue to plan and prepare for potential school reopening, you must continue to:
- Follow the mandatory DOH K–12 guidance and L&I workplace safety guidance,
- Work in partnership with your local health jurisdiction, and
- Use DOH’s school reopening decision tree as a key resource in determining whether to resume in-person instruction.
The proclamation does include language prohibiting school and non-school related sporting activities. Please see the set of restrictions for the complete guidance. WIAA will also be following up with additional information.
The full proclamation from yesterday is available on the Governor’s website. Please continue to reach out to us or to your ESD with questions.
In accordance with our principles and the Governor’s order, we spent time this week meeting with officials from the Whatcom County Health Department and the other Whatcom County superintendents. Since our meetings, the Health Department’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Greg Stern, published another letter with updated guidance (dated November 19), which is now up on the Whatcom Health Department website. Here is a direct link to the letter.
Based on the new guidance, our intent is to hold our course with students we are currently serving in-person, but to put a pause on our plans to bring back additional secondary students within the next month.
I took notes during our meetings with the Whatcom Health Department, which I then asked Dr. Stern to check for accuracy. Here are excerpts from my notes:
- When all health and safety guidelines are being followed, the data does not show in-person learning in the hybrid model at the elementary level is contributing to community spread of the virus. As we learn more, we are able to finetune our intervention responses, rather than using a broad brush to treat every activity with the same restrictions.
- Based on science, we can expect a revised Decision Tree for school reopening to be published soon, and the new guide will set different thresholds. That is, the current numbers for the moderate zone (25-75 cases per 100,000) will likely be higher, and young learners will likely be allowed to access in-person instruction even if the case numbers are high.
- At this time, Whatcom Health Department officials are not recommending we rollback what we are already doing to serve students in person in our schools, but rather that we put a pause on bringing back additional students.
- The one exception is that Whatcom Health Department and WIAA are both recommending we roll back all indoor athletic practices for the time being. As such, we will now only allow students to engage in outdoor activities in cohorts of five or fewer if they are wearing masks at all times
- The mitigation factors we have in place are working. Specifically, more evidence has been amassed to prove the effectiveness of two and three-ply cloth masks when they are worn properly and consistently. The Whatcom Health Department is finding that cases occur more in people who have close, indoor contact without face coverings in denser or larger gatherings.
- Regarding the question of having students eat lunch in their classrooms, when the Governor has declared a moratorium on in-person indoor dining in restaurants, Whatcom Health Department officials explain the difference has to do with the ability to cohort and control interactions, which is possible in schools but not in restaurants. Restaurant dining contributes to risky social behaviors, like being in an enclosed space without masks for extended periods of time with groups of strangers.
- Whatcom Health Department officials expressed the opinion that we should avoid sudden changes in plans, such as opening schools one day and closing the next, because such changes can be very difficult for families and derail their ability to carry out their own health and safety plans.
- As of this date, none of the Whatcom County School Districts are shutting down the in-person learning they have already put in place. They are pausing plans to expand in-person learning.
- Whatcom Health Department officials will step in to recommend rolling back in-person learning when there is data showing schools are involved in the transmission of the virus. So far, that has not been the case in any significant way. Even when there have been students or staff with confirmed cases, contact tracing has shown contraction and/or spread of the virus has rarely occurred in schools (and never occurred in Ferndale schools to date). Most transmission is resulting from house parties and social gatherings.
- At the recommendation of the Whatcom Health Department, we continue to use Whatcom County metrics, not district-specific metrics. We are using the county rate to track the COVID-19 disease activity because: (1) The relatively small population of Ferndale means that very few cases can cause wild fluctuations in the rate, making it very difficult to determine a trend. (2) We do not have travel restrictions between districts. Many staff and some students live in other attendance areas and almost all of us travel to shop within other school boundaries, making the county more reflective of what our actual exposure may be.
- Families and community members can help maintain the progress we have made toward resuming in-person learning in schools by following the Governor’s new guidance for confining community spread of the virus, especially as we enter the holiday season.
I want to acknowledge that our current situation is creating new layers of anxiety at a time when many are experiencing pandemic fatigue. This is hard, but I am proud of the care with which our staff has implemented health and safety measures in our schools. I appreciate the strong collaborative work we have done with our employee groups, community members, and local health officials since the beginning of Ferndale’s response to this national health crisis. We remain dedicated to providing the highest quality, most equitable education we can to all our students without jeopardizing their health, the health of our staff, or the health of our community. Finding the right balance between safety and service will always be our goal.
Please stay safe during this season of Thanksgiving.
All my best.
Dear Ferndale Families,
For the first time in more than seven months, we have had students in some of our classrooms the past two weeks for in-person instruction -- and it has been WONDERFUL! I want to thank our parents and teachers of preschoolers, kindergarteners, and K-12 learners with the greatest needs for leading the way in this transition process.
We are following the advice of the Health Department by being slow and cautious in the way we are resuming in-person learning in order to minimize the chances we will need to slow down, stop, or even reverse course because of an outbreak of the virus. In those Washington schools where all health and safety guidelines are being conscientiously followed, outbreaks have been rare. To make sure we are among that group, we have asked both the Health Department and Labor & Industries (L&I) to approve our written plans, and both have given them a thumbs up. In addition, we invited L&I consultants to come into our district this week to perform an audit of how we are actually implementing our plans. I am pleased to report that the feedback from the audit team was very positive, and that we are following up on the few recommendations they made for improvement.
The bottom line is that health and safety remains our number one priority.
With that said, I need to let you know that bringing back some of the kids for some of the time and other kids for different times is much harder than having all the kids come to school at once. The planning and preparation we have done to get ready for transitioning to the hybrid model has been extensive. Our staff put together a 22-page document with guidelines and procedures, which is posted on our website for your reference.
Speaking of transitioning to hybrid learning, I want to remind you of our schedule for bringing back elementary students and students with greatest needs:
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.
Please know our middle and high school principals and leadership teams are continuing to work on developing in-person option(s) for their students that meet all of the health guidelines, especially in terms of cohorting (keeping the same students together) and group size, which are considerably more complicated at the secondary level. I want to share that we now have a plan for second quarter, which begins the week of November 9. Although we are still working out the details, here is a general outline:
- For most middle and high school students, instruction in regular classes will be delivered online through the end of second quarter, which is in January.
- We will continue to operate our Safe Remote Access Sites for students who need them.
- We will start inviting some additional secondary students into our buildings for in-person, small-group targeted support in the afternoons. These will include:
- Students with an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) who are in need of in-person targeted support.
- Students in our general education classes who, based on data, are in need of small-group targeted support in their core content areas.
- Students who request themselves, or whose parents request, that they attend in-person targeted support, when we are able to arrange a specific appointment with their teacher(s).
- Students at Ferndale High School who are enrolled in some CTE classes (welding, small engines, and so on) where it is very difficult for them to attain skills remotely.
- We will continue to explore ways to address our secondary students’ needs for some level of social interaction.
The one aspect of high school where we have figured out how to meet health and safety guidelines related to limiting group size and maintaining consistent cohorts is in extracurricular activities -- and we know how important such activities are to the social and emotional health of many adolescents. Therefore, we began phasing in athletic practices and other activities on Monday (October 26).
According to our Athletic Director, Eric Tripp, we are in a "summer" practice mode, during which coaches are allowed to practice with their players. This window of opportunity will extend through December 18, with the time divided by activities into 2-3-week sessions. Since coaches are volunteering their time during this period, and not all coaches are available, not all sports and activities will be taking part. The coaches and advisors who are participating will adhere to all mandated guidelines related to practice times and health and safety protocols. Here is the plan:
- Students will need to be cleared for activity on Skyward before they participate.
- ASB and Pay to Play fees will not be collected during this time.
- Teams will practice two or three times per week.
- Athletes and student actors will be kept in small groups as much as possible during their practices.
- Social distancing, limited facilities, and constant cleaning of equipment will be executed.
- Masks will be worn by athletes at all times and by drama students when they are not performing.
- There will be no competition with outside teams during this period.
The first session of activities, which began on October 26, includes football, volleyball, softball, baseball, and drama. The second session, beginning in November, will include basketball, wrestling, and cheer. Other activities may be added as advisors determine student interest and feasibility. You can find more information about the Ferndale High School practice schedules on the district website. For a complete description of the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) guidelines related to athletics, follow this link: https://www.wiaa.com/News.aspx?ID=1732&Mon=10&Yr=2020.
I want you to know how much we appreciate everything you have been doing to support your children’s learning this fall. We are all being stretched in new ways, but I recognize that our families are carrying the biggest burden. Please know we are here for you. When things aren’t working, or when you just feel the need to talk to someone, reach out. Contact your child’s teacher or counselor or principal. Or email me with your phone number, and I will call you back. I talk to parents every week, and their stories help us figure out how we can make adjustments in this new world of distance learning so that it better serves your needs. Everything works better when we work together.
I want to end on a note of inspiration. Many notes actually. I am passing along to you a video of One Voice Children's Choir doing a cover of "Good Job" by Alicia Keys as a tribute to you, some of the unsung heroes of this worldwide pandemic. This is dedicated to our amazing parents: https://youtu.be/NkDNp4ATCso
With deepest gratitude,
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.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
Yesterday was the first official day of fall, and I am hopeful that this new season will bring some better days. The quality of the air we are breathing has improved, so that’s a start. The spread of the virus in our state seems to be leveling off, although the numbers in our area took a turn in the wrong direction this week. We are beginning to make plans for resuming some level of in-person instruction as soon as it is safe to do so.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, I know these first weeks of school have been tough. The whole world seems difficult right now, and having your children learning from home is one more challenge. I think you know that I am old, and my children are grown, but earlier this month, my husband and I took care of our three-year-old grandson for three days. Two of us and one of him and I still had a hard time getting anything else done. It reinforced for me what heroes all of you parents are, muscling on with paying bills, trying to keep everyone healthy, caring for kids, and now having to support their education as well.
Thank you for all that you are doing. Thank you for hanging in there. I want you to know that the Ferndale School District is here for you. Almost everyone I know is struggling, including our staff, and it’s okay if there are days when you just can’t meet all of the school’s expectations. What matters most is our relationship with you and the health and wellbeing of your family. I truly believe we will get through this, but until we do, we are in it together. We want to do everything we can to support the academic, physical, mental, and social needs of you and your children.
I have included a lot of information in this letter, so much that it might seem a little overwhelming if it were presented in one big block of text. To make it more manageable, I have arranged the information under topic headings. You can scan through the list and pick the topics that interest you. Then by clicking on those headlines, you will be able to read the article.
Hopefully, written material like this is useful to you as we progress through the school year. (I counted up the other day, and this is the 32nd letter I have written you since we first started hearing about COVID-19 last February.) However, I know sometimes it’s just nice to have a conversation. If you want, you can reach out to me at any time. I talk to parents on the phone every day and many evenings, and I am happy to do so. Your stories help me understand the impacts our school system is having on families, and oftentimes together we can figure out solutions to some of the challenges. The best way to connect with me is to email me your phone number at email@example.com. Then I will call you as soon as I get the chance.
Before I launch into all the information I want to share, let me just say again how much I appreciate what you are doing. With all that has happened in 2020, I can’t imagine a more challenging time to be raising children. Thank you for sharing those children with us, even if it’s only on the screen or the phone these days. We look forward to the day when they will be back in our classrooms.
All my best,
- Social & Emotional Learning
- Counseling and Advocacy
- Internet Safety
- Zoom Expectations for Students and Families
- Safe Remote Access Sites
- English Language Learners
- Bringing Students Back to In-Person Learning
- Qualtrics Health Attestations
- Update on Technology Support
- Meal Distribution and Free & Reduced Lunch Applications
- Update on the Replacement Levy
- Voter Registration
- Every Thursday Facebook Live
Social & Emotional Learning
Knowing the importance of relationships, we have built social & emotional learning (SEL) into your child’s school day. Leading with SEL is essential, not only because children need social and emotional support as they navigate the unprecedented challenges of distance learning, but also because SEL helps students access academic content by developing essential self-management skills, resilience, and connections. You can find more information about SEL on our district website’s reopening page at this link: https://www.ferndalesd.org/reopening-plan/social-emotional-learning.
Our teachers and staff will reach out to children and their families if they notice changes in behavior or attendance, but we want you to reach out to us if you need more support as well.
Counseling and Advocacy
As people feel more depressed, anxious, and even desperate about getting their needs met, we want to help. Our principals, counselors, and other school support staff can assist in connecting you with solutions, resources, supports, and community partners. Don’t hesitate to contact your child’s school. We are here for you.
As the use of the internet increases for learning purposes, we encourage you to take an active role in monitoring your child’s online activity, including social media, and regularly talk about internet safety as a family.
The district uses a filtering system called iBoss to keep children safe on their school-issued devices. However, it is not perfect. Because of one parent’s vigilance, we learned recently about an inappropriate site that was not being blocked by iBoss called Omegle.com, which advertises opportunities to talk to strangers. (Argh!!) That site has now been blocked, but there might be others. Please let us know if you discover one!
From another parent, we learned iBoss was not properly working on her child’s computer. We have discovered that a main reason for iBoss failures is that devices were disconnected from the district wifi prior to the updates running to completion. I want to remind you that it’s important to let updates finish before disconnecting your computer from wifi.
Please also let your teacher or principal know if you are experiencing any problems with this filter so we can work with you to resolve it.
Zoom Expectations for Students and Families
During remote learning, digital citizenship is more important than ever. Digital citizenship is defined as safe, responsible, and respectful behavior while using technology. It can be summarized by three verbs:
RESPECT: Digital citizens respect each other’s space as a basic principle of digital privacy law.
EDUCATE: Digital Citizens encourage other people’s appropriate use of technology and help educate them in proper etiquette and usage.
PROTECT: Digital citizens keep the digital landscape safe, always working to ensure security, health, and rights are respected.
In our new virtual education system, we talk about two kinds of teaching. The first is synchronous, or live teaching. This is when your child their teacher are interacting in the same space at the same time. Most of our synchronous lessons in Ferndale are delivered via Zoom.
The other kind of teaching is asynchronous, or recorded teaching. For asynchronous lessons, we expect students to watch the videos and complete lessons on their own time.
To assist your child in practicing good digital citizenship, we have developed the following list of Dos and Don’ts for online learning:
Be online, on-time and ready to learn in a quiet space.
Arrange the computer so the background is appropriate.
Make sure your name is in the Zoom ID.
Be present in the learning and follow the teacher’s guidelines for speaking out.
Always be kind and respectful to others in posts and comments.
Take photos or videos of the screen.
Plagiarize or steal anyone else’s work. (Remember that all online content is traceable.)
Create or join online groups that are not teacher-created.
Be a cyberbully, which means don’t send or share negative or mean content about someone else. (We won’t tolerate personal attacks.)
Destroy or alter any district technology or device.
Use the web cam or technology to disrupt the educational setting.
Thank you for helping us promote digital citizenship. Thanks to the pandemic and distance learning, our children are getting an advanced course in these important life skills.
Safe Remote Access Sites
From the first day of school (September 2), we have been operating Safe Remote Access Sites at Custer Elementary, Central Elementary, and Horizon Middle School for students to use our district internet if they can’t get connectivity in their homes. Students were invited to come to one of these sites based on the information their families provided us about their internet challenges. Whenever possible, we tried to solve families’ internet issues by providing hotspots or enhancing their home internet in some other way. When no other solution has been possible, we have been bringing students into one of our buildings to use our internet to access their virtual classrooms. (Hence, you may have seen a few of our school buses on the roads in the morning and afternoon, transporting students to one of the Safe Remote Access Sites.)
We are not offering in-person instruction in these Safe Remote Access Sites. Students are being supervised by paraeducators, but they are still part of our distance learning program, with their regular teachers delivering instruction online.
We have been monitoring the Safe Remote Access Sites closely since the first day of school. Despite everyone’s best effort and lots of daily problem-solving, there have been challenges. Last week, we decided to make a fundamental change in the way we are running the sites. Rather than congregating all students, regardless of their grade level, at three schools, we believe we can better serve them by establishing Safe Remote Access Sites on all of our campuses so students can attend their home school and be supervised by staff members who know them.
Our plan is to make this change effective Monday, September 28. Families with students using one of the sites will be hearing more details this week. Questions about the Safe Remote Access Sites may be directed to Faye Britt, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
English Language Learners
This week we established a new Safe Remote Access Site at Ferndale High School for our students who are emerging and progressing English Language Learners. Our principals and teachers let us know that too many of these students were struggling to figure out how to access distance learning. We want to bring them into a space where our ELL staff members can translate instructions and help them get connected to their classes. Beginning on Monday, September 28, our English Language Learners who attended the Safe Remote Access Sites at Ferndale High School will return to their home schools.
Questions about support for English Language Learners may be directed to Faye Britt, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, at email@example.com.
Bringing Students Back to In-Person Learning
One of the big questions people are asking is when are we going to start bringing students into our schools for some in-person learning. To indicate where we are with that question, we put a status meter on our district website that is aligned to the metrics from the Health Department. Earlier this month, community infection rates in Whatcom County were signaling that we could begin planning to move from our current Stage 2 status to Stage 3. During Stage 3, the Health Department says that some in-person learning can occur, beginning with our highest priority students. However, the Health Department has also cautioned us that we need to move slowly in our process, allowing enough time for planning and then monitoring the impacts of our actions. So that’s what we’re doing.
We are making plans for a gradual process of returning students to buildings for in-person learning, hopefully beginning early next month with some of our highest needs students. According to the recommendations made by the Reopening Task Force and adopted by the School Board, those would include developmental preschoolers, students in the Life Skills program, and other students with particularly high needs, followed by our students in primary grades. We have mapped out a preliminary plan that we will be discussing with the School Board and the leadership of our employee groups within the next few days.
We are very anxious to get kids back in classrooms, but our top priority remains health and safety. Therefore, our ability to implement our plans is dictated by metrics related to the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, Whatcom County has seen an uptick in infections over the course of the past two weeks. We are monitoring Health Department data closely, and we are desperately hoping this trend line turns around. In the meantime, we are continuing our planning processes so we are ready to go just as soon as we can start teaching our kids in person.
Qualtrics Health Attestations
To help streamline our required safety routines during the pandemic, we joined a number of other school districts in the region in purchasing a license to use an online application developed by a company called Qualtrics. Qualtrics offers an online health attestation that interfaces with our Skyward information system. That means that, instead of answering questions about your health on paper after you show up to work or school, the questions will come to you in an email (which you will have the option to change to a text) each morning. You will be able to answer a few simple health questions on your computer or phone, and your responses will be transmitted to your school via Skyward, clearing you to come onto campus.
Our first two attempts to launch the application on a small scale uncovered some glitches in Qualtrics software. The result was that some people got the online health attestation who shouldn’t have (and who hadn’t been forewarned), and some people did not get the online attestation who should have. We apologize for the confusion. We are working with Qualtrics to solve the problem.
The following all call and email was sent to District families on Friday, September 18, through the Family Access system to let people know that the electronic health attestations would begin Monday, September 21, for all staff and those students coming to one of our Safe Remote Access Sites:
“Starting Monday morning, September 21, we will resume emailing student health attestations through School Health Check in (firstname.lastname@example.org) only for students who attend that Safe Remote Access Sites. If you do not receive an email, please complete the paper health attestation and contact your student’s school to confirm or update your email address. If you receive this email and your student is not using the Safe Remote Access Site, please notify your student’s school. Thank you.”
When your students are slated to start coming back into one of our buildings, you will begin getting the Qualtrics notifications. Questions about Qualtrics or health attestations may be directed to John Fairbairn, Executive Director of Human Resources, at email@example.com.
Taking attendance in our virtual world is a little more difficult, but it is just as important as it has always been. Taking attendance allows us to understand when students are missing instructional time. Absences aren’t used punitively, but recording them ensures our proactive response to support students’ engagement with school.
During distance learning, attendance is being taken in one of the following ways:
- Students log into Canvas (secondary) or Google Classroom (elementary). This is our primary method of taking attendance. Think of it as the student walking through a classroom door.
- Or the student is interacting with an educator in any way.
- Or the teacher sees evidence that the student is working on an assignment or learning task.
- At the secondary level, attendance is recorded daily for each class period regardless of whether the student/class meets synchronously or asynchronously. That means (a) all six periods at the middle school; (b) all four periods at the high school; and (c) Eagle Time or Advisory, on days they occur
- At the elementary level, attendance is recorded daily for logging into the student’s Google Classroom
- Families will be notified of any student’s absence via evening phone calls.
Absences will be excused if:
- Parents or guardians notify their student’s school by telephone or email with the reason for the absence within 48-hours.
- Absences have always been excused for illness, chronic or extended health condition, family emergency, religious or cultural purposes, parental approved activities, and disciplinary actions.
- Due to COVID-19, absences will also be excused if they are:
- Related to student’s illness, health condition, or medical appointments due to COVID -19.
- Related to caring for a family member who has an illness, health condition, or medical appointments due to COVID-19.
- Related to a student’s employment or other family obligation during regularly scheduled school hours, temporarily necessary due to COVID-19 and until other arrangements can be made.
- Related to the student’s parent/guardian work schedule or other obligations during regularly scheduled school hours, until other arrangements can be made.
- Related to the student’s lack of necessary instructional tools, including internet access or connectivity.
- Related to other COVID-19 circumstances determined by the family and school.
Last spring, we suspended our regular grading policies in recognition of the challenges of switching over from in-person learning to online learning at a moment’s notice. However, for the 2020-2021 school year, all staff will return to the grading policies and practices in place before the advent of the pandemic.
At the secondary level, the only two grades a student could earn last spring were an “A” or an “Incomplete.” If your student received one or more “Incompletes” on their report card in June, please be sure to work with your school counselor to get those changed into credit-bearing grades.
Update on Technology Support
Technology continues to be our biggest challenge, which is no surprise in our new all distance learning school system. Here is information about how you can get support when your technology is not working as it should:
- Always start by contacting your child’s teacher or the principal or administrative assistant at your child’s school. They can usually help if the problem has to do with logons, passwords, updates, or directions for accessing certain programs. If they can’t help you, they will know how best to escalate your concern to the next highest level.
- Some problems are related to the online programs and applications our teachers are using -- like Canvas, Zoom, or Accelerate Ed -- that aren’t working as they should on your student’s computer. We have people with expertise in the software that are addressing those issues.
- Some problems stem from hardware that isn’t functioning properly. In other words, your student’s device is broken. We have two paid technicians and several interns from Whatcom Community College who work on fixing devices.
- We have established predictable office hours each week when one of the technicians will be available at each school building. Students can visit any of the locations for tech support daily from 1:00-3:30 pm.
- Monday: Horizon Middle School Library
- Tuesday: Cascadia & Custer Elementary Schools
- Wednesday: Vista Middle School Library
- Thursday: Central Elementary and Ferndale High School (Student Support Center)
- Friday: Vista Middle School Library
- We have implemented a telephone support line that you or your students can call if you are unable to establish a reliable internet connection. The number is 360-383-9888. One of our staff will ask you a series of questions to see if we can come up with a potential solution to help you.
- We are still awaiting the arrival of the 700 chrome books we purchased last spring. In the meantime, we are developing a plan for how we will distribute the new computers once they arrive. Our first priority will be to replace devices that are not functioning.
With 4500 people all trying to do their work using technology, a certain number of issues are inevitable. But we are diligently working through them. We are so grateful to all of you for your help and patience.
Meal Distribution and Free & Reduced Lunch Applications
On August 31, 2020, the USDA extended several flexibilities to allow school districts to continue serving free meals to children into the fall months through as late as December 31, 2020. This will help ensure children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ten-meal boxes (five complete breakfasts and five complete lunches) are being distributed on Wednesday mornings between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm at all district schools. Meals are also available for pick-up Wednesday evenings between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm at Ferndale High School, Custer Elementary School, and North Bellingham Learning Center. If none of these times/locations work for you, call our food service hotline 360-383-9337 to arrange an alternative pickup time and location.
Please Note: Given the relaxation of the rules regarding distributing meals this fall, we are worried that some families may not have filled out a Free & Reduced Lunch application for the 2020-2021 school year. A new application must be filled out each year, regardless of whether or not you qualified last year. If you do not fill out a new application, you will be charged for your child’s meals as soon as the current flexibility in the rules ends -- and we have not been told exactly when that will be.
Qualifying for Free or Reduced Lunch also brings other services and supports to your family, like reduced school fees for things like athletics and driver education, reduced or waived Advanced Placement test fees, scholarship information, and reduced internet service fees in some cases.
If you have not filled out a Free & Reduced Lunch application for this year, please do so as soon as possible. If you are not sure whether you qualify, I recommend completing the application. The few minutes it takes you to do so may pay dividends. You can access the application at this link: https://www.ferndalesd.org/food-service/free-reduced-lunch-application.
Update on the Replacement Levy
Election day is less than six weeks away, and the Ferndale School District has a very important measure on the ballot. We will be asking voters to approve a Replacement Levy to help fund that portion of our educational programs not paid for by the state. Schools have always relied on local levies for part of their funding. You may remember that last February, all seven Whatcom County school districts ran levies. Six of them passed, and Ferndale’s failed. That failure resulted in our having to lay off more than 100 employees. To try to prevent further cuts, the School Board decided to rerun the levy on November 3 at a lower rate, which is what they heard the community asking for.
Recently, I have been asked this question: “Do we still need the levy with distance learning in place this fall?” The answer is “Absolutely YES.” Education has had to be reinvented to make sure we can keep everyone safe. And it’s true that in this new world some of the resources we need are different. But we definitely don’t need fewer resources. That’s one reason the levy in November is more important than ever. The other reason it’s so important is that it is a replacement of the current levy, NOT a new tax. And, as I mentioned, it is a replacement at a lower rate (down from $2.17 to $1.50).
The replacement levy will provide funds beginning in January 2021, when the current levy runs out, and extending through December 2022. That means by the time this new levy funding kicks in, we will likely be back in our school buildings delivering in-person instruction and a full array of extracurricular opportunities for students, which we will need levy funds to support.
If you have questions about the levy, you can find additional information on the website at this link: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/levy. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 22 was National Voter Registration Day. If you are 18 years or older and you aren’t registered to vote, you can get signed up online at www.sos.wa.gov. If you do so before October 26, you will be eligible to vote in the November 3 election. It is also possible to register in person at the auditor's office all the way up to the day of the election, November 3.
We have voter registration forms in all of our school offices and the district office as well. Please reach out to us if you need assistance.
Every Thursday Facebook Live
Since July, our district has been hosting weekly information sessions at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live. These programs can be accessed through the Ferndale School District Facebook page. They are also recorded for those who choose to watch them at a later time.
If you have questions you would like district staff to answer, you can send them in advance, or you can type them into the chat box during the program. For more information about Facebook Live, contact Kelly Warner at email@example.com.
Week of August 10 - August 14
Dear Ferndale Families,
Since August 4, when the School Board agreed that we need to follow the strong recommendation of the Whatcom Health Department and begin the 2020-2021 school year in full distance learning, we have been focusing all of our efforts on preparing to offer the very best instructional and support services we can to students and families in a distance learning model. I am writing to let you know more about what “online school” is going to look like when school starts back up in September.
At both the secondary and elementary levels, we have selected and purchased licenses for Learning Management Systems (LMS) that all teachers will use -- Canvas at the secondary level and Google Classrooms at the elementary level. These Learning Management Systems will become our students’ online classrooms. They will be the places where students meet their teachers to start each day, where attendance will be taken, where instructions about lessons will be written on virtual whiteboards, where resources will be located in virtual bookcases, and so on.
We have also selected and purchased curriculum specifically designed for use in online learning settings. Our secondary teachers will be using Edgenuity. Our elementary teachers will be using Accelerate Ed, Achieve 3000, and Khan Academy. These are well-established, tried-and-true resources that have all been effectively used to support distance learning for years -- including in some places in the Ferndale School District. They will become our students’ textbooks. They won’t “teach” students any more than a textbook alone can teach students. Our teachers will be doing that.
Teachers will be going into their virtual classrooms (Canvas or Google Classroom) every day to greet their students and assist them in using their virtual textbooks (Edgenuity, Accelerate Ed, and so on) to meet the learning objectives for their grade level or class. Just as they always have, teachers will be designing, facilitating, and assessing learning. Just as they always have, they will be getting to know their students, building relationships, encouraging engagement, and addressing social and emotional needs -- with the help of support personnel like counselors and paraeducators.
To accommodate learning in our virtual classrooms with our virtual textbooks, we have also been working to design daily schedules for students at each level that will more closely resemble a traditional school day. Students and teachers will check in together at the same time every day. Attendance will be taken. Specific time periods will be established for each subject. Time for group work and independent study will be built into the schedule, as well as time for teachers to assist individual students and consult with parents. In short, students will have predictable routines to follow each day -- and they will not consist of 100% screen time. Our teacher leadership teams are still working out the details of these daily schedules, but we will have them to share soon.
As we prepare for re-opening school three weeks from today, other areas we are working on include:
- Administering a registration survey to families: This survey, which went out in three languages yesterday, will provide us with critically important information about each family’s needs and desires related to technology, learning plan preferences, and transportation (when in-person instruction becomes possible). The due date for returning these registration surveys is August 17, and we need one for every child.**A note for those of you who may have Comcast email addresses: We noticed a technical glitch that impacted Comcast-based email addresses (around 250 emails). We are working to resend the survey to those email addresses. The survey is also available on our district website, if you are unable to access it through email.
- Ensuring student connectivity: We have been working all summer with a group called Connect Whatcom to come up with solutions for families who do not have adequate internet connection. In some cases, the problem will be solved by providing a device. (We have more devices ordered. We are also hoping to free up some devices by instituting a Use-Your-Own-Device program for those students who own a computer they can utilize for schoolwork.) In some cases, we can solve connectivity issues by paying for internet service, a hotspot, or a booster. In some cases, the solution is more difficult because of a basic lack of infrastructure. The student survey referenced above will provide us with the specific connectivity needs of each family.
- Developing a schedule for distributing student devices: At this time, we anticipate devices at the secondary level will be distributed the week before school starts. At the elementary level, a decision about when devices will go out is still in the works. We will share specific schedules once we have them.
- Determining how we will decide when it is safe to begin phasing in in-person learning: I think we all agree that the best place for our students to learn is at school. However, the immediate health and safety of our students, families, staff, and broader community needs to be our highest priority. To balance these two competing needs, the district will regularly monitor public health conditions and continue planning for a return to in-person learning in some form when we can do so safely. The Governor announced some metrics last week that can be accessed here: Decision Tree for Provision of In Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Getting more re-opening information on our website: In our new virtual world, we know our website is more important than ever. For this reason, we have made it a priority to build out a more robust re-opening page on our District website within the next two weeks.
- Using other tools to communicate with stakeholders: The website is important, to be sure, but not enough. Therefore, we are ratcheting up our use of other communication tools as well. You have probably heard that we have started holding every Thursday Facebook Live programs to provide information and answer questions. (They run from 4:00 to 4:30 pm and can be accessed through the District’s Facebook page.) Next week, we have planned three pop-up Zoom meetings for our non-English speaking families, one in Spanish (August 20, 6:00 pm), one in Russian (August 19, 6:00 pm), and one in Punjabi (August 19, 7:00 pm). Our bi-lingual staff are helping us get the word out about these pop-ups, which will be used to answer questions about the registration survey and everything else related to re-opening.
In a nutshell, this is a summary of what we are working on right now. The official re-opening plan for OSPI will be presented to the School Board at a special Zoom meeting on Tuesday, August 18, 7:00 pm. (The meeting notification is posted on BoardDocs.)
Please feel free to reach out to me or your child’s principal, if you have questions about any of this.
Speaking of questions, another one I have heard several times lately has to do with resources. People are asking whether we still need as many resources if all the kids will be learning online this fall. My short answer to that question is an absolute YES. Education has had to be reinvented to make sure we can keep everyone safe. And it’s true that in this new world, some of the resources we need are different. But we definitely don’t need fewer resources. That’s one reason the levy in November is so important. The other reason it is so important is that it is a replacement of the current levy, NOT a new tax. And it is a replacement at a lower rate (down from $2.17 to $1.50). The replacement levy will provide funds beginning in January 2021, when the current levy runs out, and extending through December 2022. That means by the time this new levy funding kicks in, we will likely be back in our school buildings delivering in-person instruction and a full array of extracurricular opportunities for students, which we will need levy funds to support.
Finally, at the end of this letter, I will address the following topics in a way that allows you to read what is important to you.
- Response to racism during recent protest marches
- Adoption of Ferndale School District’s 2020-2021 budget
- Latest news about athletics
- Traffic Safety (aka Driver’s Training)
- Business of the Year: Coconut Kenny’s
The first official day of the 2020-21 instructional year remains Wednesday, September 2. Over the course of the next three weeks, we will be providing you with additional details about this year’s back-to-school plans.
Please know we are all getting very excited to see our students again -- even if it’s only on the screen. Please let them know how much we have missed them.
Take care, stay healthy, return your registration survey, and enjoy these dog days of summer.
Response to racism
July ended with several rallies in the community of Ferndale. On Friday (July 31) at 4:00 pm, a group of 250-300 people gathered in the Ferndale High School parking lot for a march through downtown to Centennial Riverside Park in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. This march was organized by FHS alumni and current students and also involved several FHS staff. Another group about 50-70 strong gathered on both sides of Main Street in front of the US Post Office and City Hall in support of the Ferndale Police. I understand there was a third group of Second Amendment supporters as well. Although I saw nothing other than people with different viewpoints exercising their right to peacefully protest, I learned afterwards that there were racist epitaphs yelled during the march and written on social media. Such remarks violate what we stand for in our School District.
Having worked closely with the leadership of the City and the Police Department, I feel certain any racially-charged hate speech violates the values of both of those entities as well. In a Tweet the next day, Mayor Hansen, called out values when he wrote: “With a few exceptions, the [July 31] events were peaceful and represented Ferndale values; the belief that we can have difficult discussions respectfully and find common ground.”
I want to let you know that our School District stands firmly against all racist speech, actions, policies, and practices at every level in our society. They are contrary to our vision, mission, and core values. Even though the incidents of racism related to the July 31 marches occurred outside our legal purview, I am deeply disturbed by them. I am also committed to making sure our education system is part of the solution by denouncing racism in all its forms and by building partnerships that serve to create a more equitable and socially just society. I invite each of you to join us as we engage in this important work.
Before I leave this topic, I want to offer public kudos to the FHS students and alumni who demonstrated their civic-mindedness by taking action. They didn’t just decide to hold a march on a whim. They did their homework. They went through some training. They notified all the right people in advance. And they took a stand. Whether or not someone agrees with the stand they took, everyone owes them the space and respect to take it. When I talk about our School District’s mission of developing people who are Character Strong, Civic Minded, and Career Ready, this is what I mean.
Adoption of Ferndale School District’s 2020-2021 budget
State law requires that each school district has a balanced budget for the upcoming school year developed and approved by its school board by August 31st. I doubt I need to tell you that developing our budget this year has been very challenging because of the levy failure. In addition to all of the staff positions we cut, we have had to dip quite deeply into our savings to balance the budget for 2020-2021.
I want to let you know that School Board will hold a public hearing next week (Tuesday, August 18, 6:45 pm) for the purpose of receiving comments on the 2020-2021 budget. We have devised and advertised on BoardDocs a way for people to make comments about the budget in our new Zoom world. Those who are interested in speaking at the virtual hearing should register in advance through the following link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_cRgBxj5DT_uc-5yYpNk4cA. They will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Written comments may submitted prior to the hearing at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or they can be made at the hearing through the webinar chat feature. The completed budget is on our website: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/budget.
Latest news about athletics
As you might have guessed, when most school districts in the region made the decision to open school remotely, the fall athletic schedule was pushed back. Those sports that were going to start in August and September will now occur in one of the other three seasons. Here is the link to the latest scheduling information from Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA): https://wiaa.com/News.aspx?ID=1728&Mon=8&Yr=2020
Traffic Safety (aka Driver’s Training)
We will be offering Traffic Safety through Ferndale High School this fall, beginning on Tuesday September 8. The course is nine weeks long and will end on Friday, November 6. The classroom portion will be delivered remotely three days per week through a combination of Canvas lessons and teacher-led Zoom meetings. The simulators will not be used until in-person instruction begins. Until then, an extra behind-the-wheel lesson will take the place of the simulator experience. The behind-the-wheel instruction portion of the class will be conducted in one-on-one sessions that adhere to all OSPI and Department of Health guidelines.
Those who are interested in taking Traffic Safety this fall must attend (preferably with their parent) a mandatory Zoom orientation with Mr. Richard on one of these two dates: (1) Tuesday, September 8 at 5:00 pm or (2) Wednesday, September 9 at 7:00 pm. Attendance at one of these meeting will ensure a place in the fall class.
To register for the mandatory orientation, contact either Mr. Genger at 360-319-9746/ email@example.com or Mr. Richard at 360-220 9575/ firstname.lastname@example.org to give them your email address. They will then send you an invitation to the Zoom meeting.
Business of the Year: Coconut Kenny’s
Coconut Kenny’s and owners Chay and Lee Tan were selected as the Ferndale School District’s 2019-2020 Business of the Year!
Each summer, the District honors a business that has made outstanding contributions to Ferndale Schools during the past year. This longstanding recognition is a way to show our appreciation for the positive impacts community businesses and organizations have on students and schools. This Business of the Year Award is a testament to the positive impact Coconut Kenny’s has had on our schools, teachers, and children.
Coconut Kenny's first approached the Ferndale High School leadership team about a year ago with a partnership idea. They volunteered to become the official sponsor of concessions at our sporting events, offering deeply discounted pizza for students to sell at games. Essentially, they donated their pizza, thereby creating an avenue for students to raise more ASB funds to support their clubs and activities.
In addition, Chay and Lee had tickets printed for all of our home events with their logo and a coupon on the back. During contests, they held drawings to give away pizza to fans. These drawings became especially popular at basketball games, where the winner of the drawing also got a chance to try to make a basket from half-court. If the lucky fan made the shot, they received free Coconut Kenny’s pizza for a year. These half-court shots -- always entertaining -- were videotaped and promoted on Coconut Kenny's Facebook page. And there were several winners throughout the season!
Chay and Lee Tan write in their Coconut Kenny’s mission statement: “We strive and work relentlessly every day to become the leading restaurant, employer, and business partner of choice everywhere we have the pleasure of conducting business.” They have been excellent partners with our school district in many ways. They have shown up at our events, they have stepped in to lend a hand when one was needed, and they have helped to tell the positive stories of the Ferndale School District. Chay and Lee Tan are wonderful examples of the kind of community leaders we hope all our students will become. This community is blessed to have them in it.
Dear Families and Students,
Although the Ferndale School District will begin the 2020-2021 school year in a distance learning model, we know that we will eventually be able to return to in-person school. We know this is hard on you, and we want to help in as many ways as we can. For that reason, we are asking you to fill out one registration survey for each of your students so we can find out:
- What kinds of technology and other support your family needs to participate in distance learning
- Whether you want your student to return to school part-time when it becomes safe for them to do so.
- Whether you want your children to ride the school bus when we return to in-person learning.
- What kinds of other unique circumstances or needs you have related to your students’ return to school.
Please know we will be following Department of Health recommendations and CDC guidelines to determine when we can (a) begin to bring in small groups of students with unique needs and (b) transition to our hybrid model, where students who choose can attend schools two days per week and participate in distance learning three days per week. We understand some families will choose to remain in a full-time distance learning model even when we are able to offer in-person school.
Families will have an opportunity in October to request a change in the model they select through this survey, and we will grant as many requests as we can based on space availability. We anticipate requests to move from the full-time distance only option to the hybrid option will be the more difficult to accommodate.
Selecting your preferred model now (hybrid or full-time distance) will allow us to put your students into classes with specific Ferndale teachers based on their preferences. We hope this will reduce the need to change their classes and/or teachers when we are able to return to part-time in-person school.
This registration does not include an option for students who are not returning to the Ferndale School District. Official withdrawals must be made through your child's school when it reopens in August.
Once again, we are requesting that families complete one registration per child. This opportunity to register will close at 5:00 P.M. on Monday, August 17, 2020. If we do not receive a response, a student will be placed with other students who chose the hybrid learning model.
Thank you for taking the time to complete this FSD Registration for Fall 2020. We believe working together we can create the best possible learning situation for your students.
Week of August 3 - August 7
Dear Ferndale Families,
By now, you may have seen that the Whatcom County Health Department has recommended that all Whatcom County schools – public and private – begin school remotely. If you have not seen the recommendation, I am including it here: http://www.whatcomcounty.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=2111
Given this recommendation, as well as feedback from public health experts, families and staff, the district’s executive leadership team, the School Board and the Ferndale Reopening Taskforce, we have made the decision that we are going to open in September with all, or mostly all, of our students in a distance learning model.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has advised school districts to work in partnership with their local health officials to plan for 2020-2021. At 1:00 pm yesterday, the other six Whatcom County Superintendents and I met with five officials from the Whatcom County Health Department. During the meeting, Whatcom County Director of Health, Dr. Stern, told us that, based on the increasing COVID-19 infection rate in Whatcom County and the region, he does not feel it is safe to open schools in September for traditional classroom learning. He wanted us to know he would be sending us a letter strongly recommending that we begin the 2020-21 school year in a distance learning mode.
So many of the decisions we have to make these days are really hard. My decision-making goal used to be to get to win-win as often as possible. Lately, I find myself weighing which alternative will cause the least harm to the most people. There just aren’t very many good choices. I know this decision to have the majority of our students learning remotely is going to create hardships for many families. Even though we are working hard to mitigate the challenges some of them faced in the spring, I suspect distance learning is going to intensify inequities.
Please know we have wrestled with this decision and landed, as we always must, on health and safety as our top priority. As we continue to plan for the opening of school, we will be exploring when we can safely begin to bring in small numbers of students with greatest needs in a way that meets all of the CDC guidelines. We have also committed to closely monitoring conditions in the county and state with a reassessment of our situation at the end of the first quarter. As I have mentioned in previous letters, all of our planning for hybrid and phased-in options will not go to waste. At some point when we are able to restart in-person learning, we will need those plans.
We will be sending a survey soon for the purpose of (1) finding out about your remote learning needs and (2) asking your preference regarding in-person learning WHEN that becomes an option. Please watch for this survey sometime in the next week.
All my best,
Week of July 27 - July 31
Dear Ferndale Families,
Greetings. It’s already been two weeks since I last wrote to you. We have used that time to continue working on plans for re-opening school in September. The Re-opening Task Force has met two more times since my last letter, and many of our administrators and staff leaders have been working hard between those Task Force meetings to conduct research and act on recommendations.
I want you to know that we made a significant decision regarding our hybrid and distance learning options by choosing an online education service provider at the secondary level – Edgenuity. We sent out an announcement last night (July 30th ) which can be found here. The distance learning we offer this fall will not be the same experience as spring 2020. Edgenuity supports school districts all over the country and is well versed in providing the technology and curriculum needed for local teachers to deliver instruction in an online setting. I am confident the experience this fall will be the best experience possible given the challenges of distance learning. I hope you will check them out for yourself: https://www.edgenuity.com/about-edgenuity/
This is the plan at the secondary level:
|Ferndale Hybrid Option (In-person + Distance Learning)||Ferndale teachers will use Edgenuity curriculum for both the in-person and distance learning portions of this option.|
|Ferndale Full-Time Distance Learning Option||Ferndale teachers will use curriculum delivered through Edgenuity for this option|
The decision regarding elementary curriculum is coming shortly. The provider selected at the elementary level will provide K-5 curriculum designed for online delivery by Ferndale teachers.
Despite everyone’s hard work, we are still facing many uncertainties as the situation in our state and region changes daily. I know you all want definitive answers so you can plan. However, the emails I am receiving suggest you are not all hoping for the same answers. Some of you desperately want us to re-open in-person school. Others are adamant that we should not.
At this time, we are still planning for several re-opening options in September, including the hybrid option that combines several days of in-person learning with several days of distance learning. However, I am sure you are hearing the same reports I am about more and more Washington school districts announcing they will be opening remotely in the fall for all, or nearly all, of their students. While that recommendation has not yet been made by health officials in Whatcom County, I think it is plausible to expect we may find ourselves in the same position. I promise to let you know as soon as a decision is made.
All of these decisions regarding how we will re-open school are tough ones that will impact many lives, and I am spending every waking hour (and some hours when I wish I were able to sleep) turning over every detail. At this moment, here is what I can tell you:
- Protecting the health and safety of our students, staff, and families is our first concern.
- We will by opening school on September 2, whether or not our buildings can be open for in-person learning. In one format or another, we will be welcoming students and families back to school. And, whatever shape schooling takes in Ferndale, we will be working just as hard as we always have (probably even harder) to ensure each of our students knows they are welcome, loved, cared for, and capable.
- If we have to open with all students learning remotely in September, the distance learning program we will offer will not be the same as we provided on a moment’s notice last spring. Don’t get me wrong: we are very proud of the work our teachers did last spring. However, we have had more time to plan for fall. We have had time to secure more digital resources for teachers. We have been able to purchase more devices for students. We are doing our best to address connectivity issues throughout the district. We are creating more definitive schedules for both teachers and students. We are determining the best ways to meet all of the more stringent accountability requirements from the state.
- As we consider the possibility of opening remotely in September, we also need to prepare to shift as conditions change. This is the reason the Task Force’s work to develop hybrid option(s), which bring students back into our buildings at least part time, is so important. Whether we implement these options in September or not, at some point we will need them.
- We are currently considering a model that uses different stages and criteria to signal when we can bring groups of students into our buildings for in-person instruction. We believe such a data-driven plan will help everyone know what to expect.
As I mentioned above, so many people have been working so hard this summer to make sure we can provide the best possible educational experience for our kids this fall. I want to thank everyone who has participated in tackling such an enormous challenge.
In a nutshell, I think all of us want children back in school, but none of us wants to put people into unsafe situations.
Thank you for your support, compassion, and patience. I look forward to sharing more information with you next week.
All my best,
P.S. On a happy note, I am thrilled to announce that Laurie Bianco, Skyline music teacher, has been named the 2020 Masonic Teacher of the Year. You can access a video of the Covid-style award ceremony that took place on July 29 here.
Week of July 13 - July 17
Ferndale School District Information Update
A letter to families from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sent Thursday, July 16, 2020 with an information update.
Find previous communication update letters archived below the latest featured update.
Dear Ferndale Families,
I hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy the beautiful Whatcom County weather this week. The sunshine has definitely been a mood lifter. I am a firm believer in seizing positive moments whenever and wherever they occur.
Since I last wrote to you two weeks ago, we have done a quite a bit of work focused on the topic of re-opening school in the fall. I reported in my July 1 letter that we were in the process of putting together a broad-based task force to help develop a plan that (1) follows all health and safety guidelines and (2) will work in Ferndale. I also told you that we are required to present a finalized re-opening plan to the School Board on August 18 and submit it to the State by August 19.
The 58-member Ferndale Re-opening Task Force met via Zoom for the first time on July 7 and for the second time on July 14. As a result of these meetings, several decisions have been made or confirmed, including the adoption of a list of guiding principles. These principles include the following:
- We will ensure the health and safety of our staff and students.
- We will follow the OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction), CDC (Center for Disease Control), and DoH (Department of Health) recommendations.
- We will provide high-quality, equitable education for all students.
- We will support the social and emotional needs of students.
- We will offer choices for families to best meet their needs.
- We will embrace and plan for uncertainty.
- We will create a plan that is flexible and manageable.
- We will remember that we are all in this together.
Regarding choices for families -- and, to the extent possible, choices for staff -- we are working to develop three “options” that will be available simultaneously, if the situation with the virus allows them. These include:
- A full-time distance learning option for families who do not want their children to return to in-person school.
- A rotating AA/BB option, which will provide a combination of in-person learning for two days per week and distance learning for three days per week according to a schedule something like this:
3. A phased-in option, which will involve some students spending more time in in-person learning based on their age/grade level, internet access, and/or other educational need.
The details for all three of these models are still being worked out, so I can’t tell you much about the specifics at this time. What I can tell you today is this:
- We are committed to keeping staff and families informed about decisions as they are developed, not waiting until August 18 to roll out a final plan.
- Our intention is to provide both families and staff with an opportunity as early in August as possible for input into which of the options they would prefer.
- We realize that everything I am telling you today could change overnight depending on what happens with the virus and what that means for health and safety.
- Whether or not we end up enacting all three of the options we are developing in September, I believe there is great value in this collaborative planning process. It will help us be more prepared for whatever happens.
If you want to keep tabs on the work of the Ferndale Re-opening Task Force, you can access videos of the meetings and all print materials here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/fall-2020
During the remainder of this letter, I want to provide information on two specific topics. Please find below news about the following:
- District budget for the 2020-2021 school year
- Latest Updates on Athletics from WIAA
District budget for the 2020-2021 school year
Development of the district budget for the 2020-2021 school year is a big part of what we are working on this summer. As you know, the task has been particularly challenging this year given the failure of the levy.
The law requires that we have a balanced budget approved by the School Board no later than August 31 for the following school year. At this time, our plan is to have the final budget for 2020-2021 approved at the August 18 School Board meeting, the same one where the Board will be approving our re-opening plan. In the meantime, we have been providing the Board with periodic updates about our budget development process. We showed them how we are achieving a balanced budget for the upcoming school year through a combination of cutting personnel, programs, and non-employee related expenditures and using a large portion of our Reserve Fund (i.e. our savings account). Part of the reason we have a Reserve Fund is to get us through tough spots -- and this is definitely a tough spot. However, it is a short-term solution. Once we spend our reserve this year, we won’t have it to spend in subsequent years. If you would like to see the numbers, the most recent version of the Budget PowerPoint can be accessed here: http://go.boarddocs.com/wa/ferndale/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BR9SVM72F476
I told you in one of my letters a month or so ago that we were working to figure out how to address some of the holes in our system created by the decisions we made to cut programs and people when the levy failed (which was before we knew we were also going to be living through a pandemic). I mentioned eight priorities that had been developed in collaboration with the Administrative Team and the School Board. As a review, those eight priorities are based on (a) guidance from the State for reopening during the pandemic, (b) community and staff input received through two surveys administered this spring; (c) management functions necessary for the safe and legal operation of the school district; and (d) the values expressed by the School Board in their Strategic Commitments and governance policies.
The eight priorities are as follows:
(1) Maintaining a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice
(2) Preserving our early learning work
(3) Addressing students’ social and emotional needs
(4) Providing an adequate level of administrative support in our school buildings
(5) Managing our technology program
(6) Staffing the School Board and Bond Oversight Committee
(7) Meeting cleaning and sanitation guidelines
(8) Preserving some level of extracurricular opportunity for students
The most recent Budget PowerPoint that I referenced above includes notes about how we have been working to address these priorities, including a number of positions we have restored. Please know that this process is ongoing.
Update on Athletics from WIAA
On July 8, the Washington Interscholastic Activity Association (WIAA) published the following:
The WIAA Executive Board took action on July 7, 2020 to push back the start date for fall sports. The action was taken in an attempt to relieve pressure on member schools as they prepare for the opening of schools to in-person and/or online learning. The current dates to commence fall sports practices are September 5 for football and September 7 for all other sports. These starting dates (Saturday and Monday of Labor Day weekend) allow for contests to begin as early as September 18.
On July 21, the Executive Board will review other options for fall sports should further delays become necessary, with an announcement to be made on July 22. In the interim, a planning committee made up of Executive Board members, WIAA staff, and representatives from WIAA member schools will review possible options and make recommendations.
The Executive Board recognizes this recent action creates many questions, and it will work to provide answers on July 22. In the interim, we suggest schools avoid any rescheduling of games until a decision is made on how the delayed start impacts the fall season.
That’s all for now, but please reach out to me if you have comments or questions. I love hearing from you.
All my best,
Week of June 29 - July 3
July 1, 2020
Dear Ferndale Families,
Happy First of July!
I know I don’t need to tell you that there has been nothing typical about 2020. Summer will be no exception. Summers usually give those of us who work in education time to catch our breath, take some time to relax, and plan for the coming year. This summer, members of our administrative team have been doing very little relaxing. In fact, we are feeling a little rushed when we realize we have just seven weeks to accomplish the herculean task of creating a roadmap for re-opening our buildings for the 2020-2021 school year amidst a vastly new set of conditions.
Our work needs to result in a final re-opening plan to be approved by the School Board and submitted to the State by August 19, which is two weeks before students are scheduled to come back to school. We are currently recruiting members for a Ferndale Re-Opening Task Force, which I will give you more information about below. I hope some of you will be part of this Task Force. We are going to need a wide variety of voices and lots of kinds of expertise if we are to be successful.
I hope you are finding ways to enjoy this summer despite how different it will be. I am looking forward to a visit from my daughter and son-in-law and (mostly) my three-year-old grandson, Raynor, next week; and I have been having fun thinking about activities we can do in a physically-distanced new way. So far, my list includes setting up a tent in the backyard, making a trip to Boxx Berry farm for their famous strawberries, and doing some exploring on the beach at Birch Bay. (Other suggestions are welcome!)
In the remainder of this letter, I want to provide more information about what we know right now regarding re-opening schools in the fall. We shared a clarification on some of the “rules” from State Superintendent Chris Reykdal last week. I am going to share it again here in case you haven’t seen it: Supt. Reykdal answers questions from the public about going back to school in the fall - YouTube
The reason that I encourage you to watch this video is that I think it does a good job of making a few things about re-opening more clear. The first is that Superintendent Reykdal establishes students will not be returning to our buildings under normal conditions in the fall. This is an important clarification. Reykdal goes on to say that health and safety guidelines have been provided by OSPI, the Department of Health, and Labor and Industries. However, each school district needs to develop a plan with its local needs in mind.
The first step in our planning process was to administer a survey to families and a slightly different version to staff right before school was out to find out as much as we can about the needs and wishes of everyone who will be involved in the re-opening. At the School Board meeting last night, we presented some of what the survey results have told us so far. You can access the PowerPoint presentation here: https://go.boarddocs.com/wa/ferndale/Board.nsf/files/BR2NGD5F5A6F/$file/Reopening%20Information.pdf
If you have not completed the family survey, you still have a few days to do so. You can get to the survey through this link: Reopening Survey
The guidance from the state and our local survey results will provide a starting point for the work of the Re-Opening Task Force, which I mentioned above. In Ferndale, we are hoping to be able to integrate lots of local expertise into our decision-making process, even though the timeline is tight. Our main goal this week has been to get the word out to recruit members for the Task Force. Here are the basic details:
- The application is available here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeIK5pZ1fztqHcQNiQ-FCG2f3uFvyDlkjLJmqej0qaNMsFcTw/viewform
- The deadline to submit an application is 8:00 am on Monday, July 6
- Task Force meetings will be held on the following Tuesdays, 5:00-7:00 pm, via Zoom: July 7, 14, 21, 28, August 4, 11, and 18
In addition to these weekly Task Force meetings, our District Administrative Team will be meeting every Thursday morning at 9:00 am all summer -- once again, not our usual practice. The Elementary and Secondary Leadership Teams have also committed to keeping in touch in July and August. I want to remind you that I have committed to continue to write bi-weekly updates to families, along with weekly bond updates (although not this week as Friday is a holiday). Finally, we are working to make sure all information about re-opening and the work of the Re-Opening Task Force is published on our website in a timely fashion. Future task force updates and re-opening information will be published here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/fall-2020
That’s all for now, but please reach out to me if you have comments or questions. And enjoy this 2020 Fourth of July holiday weekend in whatever safe and creative ways you can.
All my best,
Week of June 15 - June 19
June 19, 2020
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
I want to celebrate you, dear families, as we end this one-of-a-kind year together. You did it. You are at the finish line, and I want you to know how much I appreciate you for partnering with us in a whole new way these past three months.
Speaking of finish lines, last Saturday’s graduation ceremony at Ferndale High School was a perfect example of Ferndale teamwork and ingenuity. An outdoor stage was positioned in front of the big painted logo on the end of the Performing Arts Center. A professional film crew was on hand to capture everything for the movie version of graduation, and a team from Mr. Tim Lucas’s FHS video production class was also there to livestream the whole five-hour event. We will be sharing the full video when our team finishes its work, as well as text versions of each of the graduation speeches.
I know those of you with students in our elementary and middle schools are experiencing your own versions of rites of passage with your students -- and I want to acknowledge you as well. Although our celebrations have had to take a different form this year, we are just as proud of all of our students for achieving another milestone in their educational journey.
So now, as we wrap up this school year, we are already planning for the next one. As I shared last week, the re-opening guidance from the state was released on Thursday, June 11. The good news is that our State Superintendent of Public Instruction told us we should all be preparing to resume in-person education in September, although we still have hundreds of details to work out to be able to do so according to the health and safety rules we have been given.
As we begin our planning, we want to get as much input as we can about the preferences and needs of our families. Therefore, we launched another survey this past Tuesday, this one requesting names attached. In a little over 24 hours, we had already received 960 responses. Thank you to those of you who have completed the survey. If you haven’t done so yet yet, you can access it at this link: Reopening Survey for Families
In the remainder of this letter, I want to provide information on the following topics:
- The School Boards’ decision about the November levy
- Update on student athletics and activities for the 2020-21 school year
- Countywide agreement about starting athletic programs this summer
- Plans for addressing gaps created by levy cuts
- Communication plans for the summer
- Access to school buildings during the summer
- Summer meals programs
The School Boards’ decision about the November levy
At their June 16 meeting, the Ferndale School Board decided to ask voters to replace the current Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) Levy in the November 3 election at a rate of $1.50 per thousand of assessed value for two years. This is lower than both the current (2020) rate of $2.17 per thousand and the rate of $2.50 per thousand that was on the February 11 ballot.
It is important to remember that this is not a request for a new tax. If approved in November, the levy will replace the current levy, which expires in January 2021.
Ferndale School Board President Andrew McLaurin says, “We recognize these are difficult times for our community and our nation. However, after a levy failure in February we need to again ask our community to consider approving our local levy, which allow us to help pay for school staff, programs, technology, and student services and opportunities.”
As you are aware, the district has cut over 100 positions for the 2020-21 school year due to the February levy failure. The new levy, at this lower amount, will allow us to restore some programs and reduce the need for future cuts. It will protect jobs for staff and programs for our students. In Ferndale, the levy funds:
- School staff (nurses, teachers, security officers, counselors and paraeducators, beyond what our state allocates)
- School services and programs (special education, advanced learning, lower class sizes and our eight-period high school schedule, which allows more elective classes)
- Technology for both school and at-home learning
- Student services and extracurricular activities (athletics, music, drama and clubs)
Update on student athletics and activities for the 2020-21 school year
As we have mentioned, the state does not provide any funding for athletics or extracurricular programs like band and drama. Most of the funding for sports and activities comes from our four-year levy.
Since Ferndale did not pass the school district’s replacement levy last February, we have had to make difficult decisions to cut staff and programs this fall. As part of these cuts, we eliminated C Teams from fall sports.
I am proud to say that our community and coaching staff have stepped forward with a one-time solution to continue our C Team athletic programs through a community-wide fundraising effort.
We understand how important it is for the health and safety of our student athletes and the longevity of these programs that students have the opportunity as freshmen to play sports. We are so grateful to our community for helping us with this solution to fund athletics in the fall. If we can renew our levy in November, then we will be able to continue providing a budget for sports at all levels beyond this fall.
We know coaches are excited to talk about fundraising and how our community can commit to making athletics happen in the fall for C Teams. We will be in touch soon with fundraising efforts.
Countywide agreement about starting athletic programs this summer
The failed levy is only one of the challenges impacting our athletic programs. We are also faced with a new set of restrictions resulting from Covid-19. Earlier this week, all Whatcom and Skagit County School Districts agreed that, for the health and safety of everyone involved, no athletic coaches will have face-to-face contact with any of our 7-12 athletes until reach Phase 3. This ruling pertains to both indoor and outdoor facilities. Once Whatcom County reaches Phase 3, Athletic Directors will forward guidance to our coaches, athletes, and families about safe return protocols.
The Athletic Directors included the following statement in their guidance:
While we recognize the importance of the life lessons learned and positive character traits developed through participation in education-based athletics, and fostering positive relationships with coaches and peers, we cannot disregard the health and safety implications during these unprecedented times. “Doing what’s best for kids” has and will continue to be our first filter when making determinations for reopening.
Plans for addressing gaps created by levy cuts
I don’t need to tell you that much has changed since we first created the lists of positions and programs we would need to cut if we didn’t have levy funds. When we made those lists last February, most of us hoped a second attempt at the levy in April would be successful, and we wouldn’t actually have to make the cuts. None of us imagined a pandemic would turn our education program upside down, make an April levy election impossible, and send our economy into a tailspin.
So now here we are, trying to figure out how we can restructure the resources we have left to address some of the major areas of concern created by our reductions in force. I have identified eight such areas based on guidance from the state for reopening during the pandemic, management functions necessary for the legal operation of the school district, and the values expressed by the School Board in their governance policies. The eight areas are: (1) preserving our early learning work; (2) addressing students’ social and emotional needs; (3) providing an adequate level of administrative support in our elementary schools and our high school; (4) managing our technology program; (5) maintaining a focus on equity and social justice; (6) staffing the School Board and Bond Oversight Committee; (7) meeting cleaning and sanitation guidelines; and (8) preserving some level of extracurricular opportunity for students
I want you to know that we are working very hard to bring back a very limited number of positions by using federal Title dollars, Learning Assistance Program (LAP) dollars, and High Poverty funds in creative ways. We are exploring grants and partnerships. We are scrutinizing every opening resulting from attrition to see if it offers an opportunity for restructuring. We are also looking carefully at how much fund balance we will have to work with after the dust settles this summer. In short, I want you to know that we hope to be adding positions over the summer to address the eight needs we have identified, and that, through the process of doing so, we will be abiding by all applicable union contracts. I hope to be able to provide you with specific information about positions we have been able to add back in my next letter.
Communication plans for the summer
Speaking of my next letter, I want you to know that I plan to continue to write to you over the course of the summer, probably every other week instead of every week. This will not be like past summers, and we can’t wait until August to let you know what to expect in September. In fact, we are hoping to engage many of you in helping to plan our reopening in the fall.
To that end, both the Elementary Leadership Team and the Secondary Leadership Team intend to continue to meet throughout the summer. In addition, we will be forming a broad-based Advisory Committee to help inform the processes and procedures for facilitating a safe, equitable and effective reopening in the fall. Watch for more information about the Advisory Committee by the end of the month.
Access to school buildings during the summer
The general rule is that our buildings will remain closed during the summer -- or at least until Whatcom County moves into Phase 3. If you need to visit one of our buildings, please continue to make an appointment through the school principal. If they are on vacation when you need access, call the district office and one of the administrators who is working there will assist you.
Summer meals programs
The Ferndale School District will be ending meal service for the 2019-2020 year on Friday, June 19, the last day of the school year. During the summer months, the number of locations where students can receive free meals has grown, thanks to the new annual Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Please follow this link to find those meal locations: https://www.nokidhungry.org/find-free-meals
That’s all the I have to share from the District for tonight, but I want to leave you on a positive note -- so I will relate my experiences last week at the Ferndale Community Coalition’s June meeting. (For those who don’t know, Ferndale Community Coalition -- often called FCC -- is a group that started in the Ferndale School District eight years ago and has become a powerful collaborative made up of several dozen community members and service providers dedicated to working on behalf of youth and families.)
I was invited to speak at the FCC meeting about the things we have been experiencing in the school district this spring. The group asked me specifically to share the following note from them to our school employees. I want to share it with you as well:
We know how hard each of you have been working during this challenging time of distance-learning, distance-counseling and distance-leading; and that even in the face of layoffs, you continued to put students and families first. For those of you who are moving on from FSD, we know that your gifts and talents will continue to benefit others. It’s not a matter of if you will continue to do what you do best, it’s only a matter of where. We hope that you consider the coalition a home because your input is so important. We will continue to do our best to support you as well as the staff who remain working with FSD this coming year -- with limited capacity and undoubtedly increased need -- from students and families.
The meeting was closed with the following blessing and poem:
Together we have been learning about how we move and think with hope as our lens while holding our concerns in mind. Today we are concerned for the school district, for students, for those teachers and staff who will pick up the pieces, and for the whole Ferndale community. We are concerned for those staff who won’t return in the fall and the hole they will be leaving in the lives of our students. And we tenderly hold the knowledge that there is great loss and grief over the death of the beloved Lummi Chief, Bill James.
And we know that there are reasons for hope. We see a graduating class of young leaders who have risen to the challenge of life during Covid. We know the commitment the school district holds to care for every child in Ferndale. We know that those leading love our children and that staff and teachers are resilient and creative. And we know, because we know you, that you will continue to be a gift to the community, offering your talents, time and love in the service of others. Lastly, we know that the Lummi people are strengthened in this time of mourning by their connection to one another, to their history and to their culture.
Blessing of Hope
By Jan Richardson (slightly adapted)
So may we know
that is not just
but for this day—
in this moment
that opens to us:
hope not made
but of substance,
hope made of sinew
hope that has breath
and a beating heart,
hope that will not
and be polite,
hope that knows
how to holler
when it is called for,
hope that knows
how to sing
when there seems
hope that blooms in us
but this day,
Week of June 8 - June 12
June 11, 2020
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
As the Class of 2020 approaches the finish line this Friday (June 12) – and as the remainder of our students and staff prepare to wrap up this school year the following Friday (June 19) -- there are still many unanswered questions about next fall. The good news is that we received word today that OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) expects all school districts throughout the state, including Ferndale, to be open for in-person education in the fall unless they cannot modify the in-person learning experience to meet the rules established by the Department of Health.
The work begins now to plan a route forward that will allow us to open in the fall. I will provide more details about the OSPI guidance once we have had a little more time to read and digest it. (The 54-page document was just published a few hours ago.)
I want you to know that we could not be more thrilled to receive the news that we can plan to have your kids back in school with us in the fall. I also want you to know that we recognize some families may not be ready to send their students back to an in-person learning environment in September, and we want to address your needs as well. All families should look for another survey from your child’s teacher within the next few days. The last survey, which asked about your distance learning experiences, gave us some good feedback for improving how we do virtual school, if we are forced back into that mode in the future. This survey is your first chance to help shape your child’s learning experience when we re-open schools next fall, so it is critical we get one for every student. We need to hear from you!
In the spirit of making sure you have the information you need to answer your questions, plan for the future, and manage the next couple of weeks, I want to spend the remainder of this letter addressing the following topics:
- Plans for re-opening school in fall 2020
- The Governor’s Phase 2 and what it means in the Ferndale School District
- A summary of activities celebrating the graduation of the Class of 2020
- Follow up to my “Open Letter to the Community” about racism
- An answer to questions about School Resource Officers (SROs)
- An offer from the Whatcom Library System
- An update on the Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) Replacement Levy
- Schedules and protocols for collecting devices, textbooks, and library books
- The latest news about athletics and activities for next year
- A reminder about legislation related to vaccinations
- A word about the State’s “new” Health Education Standards
Fall 2020 Re-opening
We have waited patiently for OSPI to issue guidance for Fall 2020. Many (including me!) speculated that our schools would not open in the same way they usually do. While we will need to make preparations for social distancing, cleaning, and proper hygiene, at this point it looks like schools WILL be opening for traditional in-person learning in the fall.
Our staff in Ferndale will now be working to create a plan that meets requirements set by OSPI and the Department of Health. We will share that plan -- and our planning process -- as soon as possible.
If you would like to read the re-opening guidance from OSPI yourself, the report can be found here: released guidance.
The Governor’s Phase 2 and what it means in the Ferndale School District
According to information released by the Governor’s office, “Beginning June 8, all employees will be required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction. Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees. [In Ferndale, we are working on procuring masks for employees who need them.] Employees may choose to wear their own facial coverings at work provided they meet the minimum requirements.” In short, per the Governor’s order, we have asked all employees to wear masks while doing work under the above conditions.
A summary of activities celebrating the graduation of the Class of 2020
If you have been following the saga of the Class of 2020, you know the high school staff and senior parents have worked hard to find virtual substitutes for traditional senior year activities like awards programs and scholarship nights. They bought yard signs for each senior and banners to put around town. They are using the electronic reader board at the high school to scroll through senior names this week. We have taken out a big ad in the Sunday edition of the Bellingham Herald. Although I know it’s not the same, we are trying to give our seniors a send-off to remember.
Graduation celebrations for the Class of 2020 are culminating this week. Friday (June 12) is the seniors’ last official day of school. At 8:20 pm that evening, we will be turning on the FHS Stadium Lights in honor of our graduates -- and we have invited community members to join in the celebration from the comfort of their own homes. In accordance with the Whatcom County Department of Health and the Governor’s Phase 2 guidance, community members should not assemble at Ferndale High School; instead, they should make noise outside at individual residences. “We really hope that we hear a roar starting at 8:20 pm,” says FHS Principal Vincent. “This is our opportunity as a community to make a really big noise, a big statement for this class. As their principal, I want these students to hear pride and celebration from people who support them and wish them well.”
The actual Graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 will take place over about a six-hour period of time on Saturday (June 13), once again in a physically-distanced manner that meets current State guidelines for Phase 2. The activities on June 13 will be livestreamed and available to view via the internet in real time. The festivities will also be filmed and edited into a “movie” version, which will be available after June 20.
In addition to these district-sponsored events, the senior parents have worked with the City of Ferndale to arrange a parade through downtown prior to the Stadium Lights activity at 8:20 pm. Any questions about the parent-sponsored parade should be directed to the City of Ferndale and/or senior class parents.
For more details about Ferndale School District events to honor the Class of 2020, check this link: https://www.ferndalesd.org/ferndalehigh/class-of-2020-graduation-information
Follow up to my “Open Letter to the Community” about racism
On Tuesday of last week (June 2), I shared an open letter with the community in response to the murder of George Floyd and resulting protests throughout the nation. In it, I apologized for the racism in our school district; I committed to using whatever power I have to making it a place where every student can learn in an environment free of harassment, bullying, violence, and racism; and I shared a number of resources. (If you missed the letter, you can access it here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/news/1682475/an-open-letter-to-our-community.)
Most of the responses I received to my letter were positive and encouraging. A few of them questioned whether there is still racism in our school district to the extent that we need to apologize for it -- which is the perfect opening for a conversation about the systemic racism that exists in any organization or community or country in which the majority of power is held by people of one race. I received one reply to my letter that was hateful and vile. I tell you this by way of suggesting that our community is a microcosm of the nation at large, representing a variety of perspectives and opinions. Like other places in the country, I believe we are also ready in Ferndale for a more robust conversation about race and equity. To this end, we plan to set up some book studies and conversation groups during the summer months. Watch for more details.
An answer to questions about School Resource Officers (SROs)
The most recent questions I have received related to the national protests are about School Resource Officers (SROs). People are asking whether we have an SRO in the Ferndale School District and what such police officers in the school do. Since you may be asked these questions as well, I want to remind you that we have had an SRO, but we canceled our SRO contract with the City of Ferndale for next year because of the failed levy.
We have enjoyed a good working relationship with the Ferndale Police Department during the decade I have been superintendent here. I called Chief Turner last week to check in to see how he and his team are doing, since the national events of the past few weeks have to be demoralizing. I told him I felt compelled to make a public statement against racism on behalf of the school district, but that I have always considered him -- and Chief Knapp before him -- to be partners in this work.
That does not, however, mean I believe our SRO system has always been the best way to serve the safety needs of all of our students. Given the research showing school discipline is more likely to become criminalized when police officers are assigned to work in schools, I think we at least need to reflect on what has been our practice and what we want it to be going forward. This is a topic worthy of a more widespread discussion. My next step is to schedule a meeting with the Ferndale Mayor and Police Chief.
An offer from the Whatcom Library System
The Whatcom County Library System has eight books with anti-racism themes. They are all available as electronic downloads and most can also be accessed as audio books as well. During the month of June, the library is granting access to these eight titles without the usual restrictions (holds, limits on copies checked out at one time, etc.). Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility is among the eight titles. Here’s the link to the entire list.
An update on the Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) Replacement Levy
As you know, the Ferndale School District will be asking voters to reconsider a request to replace the current levy on November 3, 2020. Our February 11, 2020 request to replace the levy at a rate of $2.50 for four years was not approved, and our plan to put the measure back before voters on April 28, 2020 ballot was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Next week at their June 16 meeting, we expect the School Board will make a decision regarding rate and term of the replacement levy. The discussions among Board members to date suggest they recognize the change in the economic environment in Ferndale and the State, and therefore they will likely be asking for a rate lower than the original $2.50 -- or even the $2.17 figure they had set for April. We will know for sure after their June 16 meeting.
If the replacement levy is approved by voters on November 3, the new rate set by the Board would go into effect in January 2021, replacing our existing levy with a lesser amount, but preventing us from moving forward into another school year with zero levy dollars.
As a reminder, this is what the replacement levy does:
- Continues services for students in a time when students need their schools and teachers more than ever.
- Protects funding for staff, which will limit the need for additional cuts. In an environment where State funding may be at risk because of lower sales tax revenue, it is critical that we have levy funding to protect jobs.
- Provides technology for both school and at-home learning.
Schedules and protocols for collecting devices, textbooks, and library books
As we approach the end of the year, we are collecting all school-issued devices (laptops and chrome books), textbooks, library books, and other district property according to the schedules below. Please return your student’s device and other district property to the school your student attends, as this will allow the device to be appropriately accounted for. The collection of these devices this spring will allow us to complete a thorough inventory, clean the machines, repair any that are damaged, and re-image all of them with the latest application updates so they are ready to re-assign in September.
Your student has been emailed an online link to a device check-in form. These forms do not need to be printed. If your student has trouble filling out the form online, they may do so when they bring their device to school to turn it in.
During device turn-in times, we are also collecting all textbooks, library books, and other district property. (Please be advised that we will assess fines for missing textbooks, computers, chargers or damaged devices over the next few weeks and share that information with families throughout the summer.)
When you arrive at school to drop off devices, textbooks, and library books, please remain in your car, and our staff will come to you.
Should you need assistance, we ask that you reach out directly to the main office of the school where your student attends.
Vista and Horizon Middle Schools (in front of the school)
- 6 th Grade: Friday, June 12, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
- 7 th Grade: Monday, June 15, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
- 8 th Grade: Tuesday, June 16, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
- All grades: Wednesday, June 17, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm
Ferndale High School (in front of Old Main)
All grade levels:
- Tuesday, June 16 through Friday, June 19, 10:30 am-1:30 pm
- Wednesday, June 17, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm
- Saturday, June 20, 12:00 pm-2:00 pm
Additional information about elementary school turn-in times and bus stop options for returning property will be published next week.
The latest news about athletics and activities for next year
As we have mentioned, the State does not provide any funding for athletics or the extracurricular aspects of programs like band and drama. Most of the funding for sports and activities comes from our local levy. Since Ferndale did not pass the school district’s replacement levy last February, we are making difficult decisions to cut staff and programs this fall.
We understand how important it is for the health and safety of our student athletes and the longevity of these programs that students have the opportunity as freshmen to play sports. I am proud to say that our community and coaching staff have stepped forward with a one-time solution to continue our C Team athletic programs, which were slated to be cut this fall.
You will begin to see (if you haven’t already) a major fundraising effort by our community to maintain the C Teams. We are so grateful to our community for helping us with this temporary fix for our athletic programs. If we can renew our levy in November, then we will be able to continue providing a budget for sports at all levels beyond this fall.
A reminder about legislation related to vaccinations
I want to make sure to remind families that Washington State law requires each child attending school be immunized according to a schedule determined by the Washington State Board of Health. Parents are responsible for completing a Certificate of Immunization (CIS) when they register their child for school and keeping it up to date thereafter. Registration and school attendance are contingent upon either adequate immunization or exemption from immunization, which Health Care Providers may issue in some circumstances. This means students who do not have up-to-date immunization records will not be allowed to start school in the fall. Please talk to your Health Care Providers if you have questions -- especially since the Department of Health has indicated they are not planning to provide a grace period for compliance as has sometimes been done in the past. For more information, please see: https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Schools/Immunization
A word about the State’s “new” Health Education Standards
During the past school year, we have occasionally heard questions and concerns about the State’s “new” Health Education Standards. The Standards were actually adopted in 2016, so they are not particularly new. What’s new is a piece of recent legislation concerning comprehensive Sexual Health Education, which resulted from a situation in one school district where the school board voted to eliminate any teaching of sexual health education unless the state required it. That gave rise to ESSB 5395, which requires districts to teach to the Health Education Standards.
In Ferndale, we have already been teaching to the standards, so we don’t foresee needing to make any major changes. While the State Learning Standards contain some required elements of instruction, they are worded broadly enough to allow for local decision making in determining learning outcomes that are appropriate for a specific community. The document clearly states that “ depending on school resources and community norms, instructional activities may vary.” It goes on to say that “all curriculum in Washington State is decided locally, within each district.”
For students in grades K-3, the Standards specify that “Comprehensive Sexual Health Education” must be instruction in social and emotional learning consistent with the benchmarks adopted by OSPI. In Ferndale, we a have already launched the Second Step social and emotional learning curriculum, which meets OSPI’s guidance.
For students in grades 4-12 students, “Comprehensive Sexual Health Education” includes age-appropriate instruction about:
- The physiological, psychological, and sociological 40 developmental processes experienced by an individual;
- The development of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to communicate respectfully and effectively, to reduce health risks, and to choose healthy behaviors and relationships that are based on mutual respect and affection, and are free from violence, coercion, and intimidation;
- Health care and prevention resources;
- The development of meaningful relationships and avoidance of exploitative relationships;
- Understanding the influences of family, peers, community, and the media on healthy sexual relationships; and
- Affirmative consent and recognizing and responding safely and effectively when violence, or a risk of violence, is or may be present with strategies that include bystander training.
A State committee gets together every two years to review and approve Sexual Health Education materials. Ferndale’s Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, Scott Brittian, has been a member of that committee for the past four years. According to Mr. Brittain, “For Ferndale, this new legislation really does not mean a whole lot. We are already in good shape with what we do with our students at both the elementary and the secondary levels.” I want you to know that any major changes in what we are already doing with regard to Health Education will be advertised and processed with a wide group of constituents, including parents.
I think that’s everything for today, but I want you to know that I plan to continue to write to you over the course of the summer, probably every other week. We will undoubtedly still have lots to talk about after the school year officially concludes on June 19, and I want to make sure to keep you in the loop.
With that, I want to leave on a positive note: Our staff put together a video tribute to all of their colleagues who are retiring this year (all of the ones who gave us permission to publish their pictures and stories, that is). It represents years of service and an immeasurable amount of love for children. You can access the video at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDLZiHTfoYQ&feature=youtu.be
Take care of yourselves, team. Let’s finish this crazy year Ferndale strong.
All my best,
Week of June 1 - June 5
Thursday, June 4, 2020
Ferndale School District Information Update
A letter to families from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sent Thursday, June 4, 2020 with an information update.
Find previous communication update letters archived below the latest featured update.
June 4, 2020
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
I must begin this update with solemn news. Lummi Nation Hereditary Chief Tsi’li’xw passed away this week. I ask that you join me in honoring his life, his work, and his contributions to our community by reading the wonderful tribute published by Lummi Indian Business Council Chairman Lawrence Solomon, which you can access here:
https://www.facebook.com/lummicommunications/photos/pcb.3572658699416203/3572649819417091/?type=3&theater. On behalf of the Ferndale School District, we send our deepest condolences to Chief Tsi’li’xw’s family and to the entire Lummi Nation.
Earlier this week, I shared an open letter with you in response to the murder of George Floyd and resulting protests throughout our nation. One thing is very clear to me. As a nation, we have much work to do. In Ferndale, I commit to using whatever power I have to make sure our school district is a place where every student has the right to learn in an environment free of harassment, bullying, violence, and racism. I commit to naming racism when we see it and working to improve our responses. If you missed the letter I sent, I am including a link to it here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/news/1682475/an-open-letter-to-our-community
There really isn’t a good way to transition from these solemn topics to some of the nuts and bolts I want to share with you about district operations -- so I will just dive in. In the remainder of this letter, I will provide you with information about the following topics:
- Technology Planning for Next Year (2020-2021)
- More about Grading
- Process for Reassigning Paraeducators
- Update on Rerunning the Educational Programs and Operations Levy
- Update on Plans for Reopening School in the Fall
Technology Planning for Next Year (2020-2021)
We have been hearing lots of questions about what kind of technology and what level of tech support will be available for the upcoming school year. This is understandable. The “cut list” we published right after the levy failed in February included references to cuts in technology, instructional tech support positions, and online subscriptions.
I want to let you know where we are with technology planning at this time:
We are not planning to change our 1:1 program for grades 6-12. When we made our first list of the cuts we would need to make to balance our budget without levy funding, we had not yet even imagined that a global pandemic would force us all into the world of remote learning. Given our current situation, which promises to extend in some form into next year, our priorities have changed. We may not be able to purchase as many new computers as we have in the past, but we will collect devices this spring and redistribute them in the fall. The number of devices we get back from seniors should nearly cover the number we need for incoming sixth graders.
While it’s true we are looking at discontinuing some of our online subscriptions, we will not be canceling all of them. We are doing a careful audit of what resources we are currently paying for and how they are being used. Textbook support and internet resources that are part of our adopted curriculum and are widely used will be maintained. Other subscriptions that are rarely used or only used by a few staff members will probably be canceled.
We will definitely be maintaining our subscription to, and support for, the Canvas learning management platform for staff and students in grades 6-12. We no longer believe this is an option, since the state has indicated we will need to adopt a consistent platform for providing distance learning services in the fall -- in the event that we are forced to rely on remote learning for some or all of our delivery of instruction.
For the same reason, we need to adopt a consistent online platform at the elementary level. Upon recommendation of the Elementary Leadership Team, we are pursuing Google Classrooms for this purpose. We will communicate more as decisions are made.
Since 2017, we have been contracting with Seitel Systems out of Seattle for technology hardware and network support. While Seitel has been a good partner, they are expensive. We are currently engaged in conversations with the leadership of Seitel about how we can restructure our relationship with them to reduce our current costs. We anticipate we will be able to do this through a model that includes Seitel’s continued help with network maintenance and the implementation of a number of efficiencies in our processes. Seitel agrees that a new model would be both possible and beneficial to the district, and they are helping us develop one that will maintain an appropriate level of support for our staff. (I should note that our intent to restructure our contract with Seitel pre-dates the levy failure.)
Skyward (our student information management system) will be changing during the upcoming school year for all users in the State of Washington. This change, which has been in the works for well over a year, has nothing to do with the pandemic, the levy failure, or any decision made by the Ferndale School District. The new system -- called Qmlativ (pronounced “cumulative”) Education Management System -- has been advertised as the “latest evolution in school management platforms.” While I don’t know many specifics, I do know that each school district has been assigned a time period for making the transition. Ours is supposed to be Winter Break of the 2020-2021 school year. We asked to have that date pushed back, preferably to Summer 2021, but I don’t know yet if our request will be honored. I can just say this: (1) the change will undoubtedly be somewhat disruptive, as all major system changes are; (2) everyone in every Skyward school district in the state is in the same boat; (3) we will do our best to develop and implement a logical plan for supporting the change; and (4) we will let you know more details when we have them.
More about Grading
Another topic that has generated a number of questions lately is grading. I want to respond to several of those questions here.
When we first decided to adopt an A/I system (that’s “A” grades and “Incomplete” grades) for this semester in our secondary schools, we said the Bellingham School District would be doing the same thing. It has come to our attention that Bellingham is using A/I in their high schools but a Pass/Incomplete system in their middle schools. I just want to acknowledge that our middle school grading plan is not the same as Bellingham’s middle school grading plan. However, at this point, we are going to stick with the commitments we have made to Ferndale families.
I also want to make sure everyone is aware that the “A/I” model is for this semester only. As someone called it during our earlier deliberations, it is our student version of stimulus checks, aimed at helping them get through a major transition and disruption. Whatever school schedule or plan we end up implementing in the fall, we are going to need to redefine our grading expectations and return to a more traditional system.
Finally, I want to urge parents to encourage their children to take advantage of the “A/I” grading system that is in place this spring. They need to connect with every one of their teachers at least to explain why they are not able to complete all of the assigned work. We know this is a difficult time, which is the reason we have implemented this very lenient grading model. Teachers understand there will be a variety of skill levels when students return to in-person learning, and they will do their best to meet students at their level of need. For the most part, students who make an honest connection with their teachers this spring will receive a passing grade. It is not our intent or desire to have them return to school in the fall with the burden of “Incompletes” that need to address in addition to all of their new coursework. If you have questions or concerns, and your student is reluctant about making contact, reach out to the teacher yourself. They are ready and willing to help you, but the clock is running out.
Process for Reassigning Paraeducators
As many of you know, an important part of our school district employee team are our wonderful paraeducators. The role of paraeducators is to work alongside and/or under the direction of a licensed or certificated teacher to support and assist in providing instructional and non-instructional services to children, youth, and their families. In Ferndale, as in most districts, a large percentage of our paraeducators are funded with local levy dollars. Because our levy failed in February, we are having to lay-off more than three dozen of those paraeducators.
Since I know many of you interact regularly with the paraeducators at your children’s schools, and you value their services as much as we do, I want to let you know what is currently happening as a result of the elimination of so many paraeducator positions. The para reassignment process, which began this week, will likely have considerable impact, not only on those who are losing their jobs but also on those who are remaining. That’s because the paras who are remaining will now be going through a seniority-based reassignment process. This process -- which was developed through a collaboration between PSE union leadership (the union that represents paras) and the District -- allows those paras whose positions have been eliminated, or who have otherwise been displaced, to “bump” paras with less seniority. As you can imagine, this has the potential to cause changes in every building.
Update on Rerunning the Educational Programs and Operations Levy
By now I think everyone is aware that voters did not approve the Ferndale School District’s replacement levy in February 2020. We are allowed a second chance to run the levy during the 2020 calendar year. The Board initially decided to rerun the levy on April 28 at a rate of $2.17 per thousand for four years, down from the $2.50 per thousand we asked for in February.
When the pandemic struck in March, the Board made the decision to pull our levy from the April 28 ballot. Subsequently, they decided to rerun the replacement levy on the November 3 General Election ballot. However, they have not yet decided on a rate or duration for the levy they plan to put before voters in November. I expect they will make these decisions at their June 16 Special School Board Meeting.
Update on Plans for Reopening School in the Fall
The most frequent question I am asked these days is, “What is school going to look like in the fall?” It came up at the School Board meeting on May 26, and Board Member Lee Anne Riddle’s answer sums up what we know definitively at this point. “It isn’t going to look like it did last fall.”
Lee Anne is one of approximately 160 people across the state who have been tapped to be part of the Governor’s Re-opening of Washington Schools for 2020-21 Stakeholder Workgroup. After their first meeting of the whole on May 13, the large group was divided into a number of sub-committees to focus on various aspects of instructional services (such as scheduling, grading, assessments, and whole child supports) and operations (such as transportation, facilities, food services, and finances). They are aiming to get the first wave of guidance to school districts by next Monday, June 8.
To process the guidance we get from the state and create a cohesive implementation plan, the Whatcom County Superintendents decided to form a consortium with representatives from each district. The steering committee for the consortium met for the first time on May 28. They will be meeting again after the June 8 guidance is released. I hope to have more details to pass on the next time I write to you.
Those are the main topics I wanted to share with you today. If you still have capacity to read more from the school district, I encourage you to check out our latest We Are Ferndale blog story, which features our Ferndale School District Transportation Department. You can access it here:
Next week will be the last hurrah for our seniors in the Class of 2020, who will be concluding their high school career on Friday, June 12. Look for more details about this strangest-of-all-year’s commencement exercises and other senior events on our website and Facebook page within the coming days.
On behalf of the whole Ferndale School District team, I want to thank you for hanging in there with us these past three months. We fully recognize how big a burden you have had to take on in this world of distance learning, and we appreciate your partnership more than words can say. I will say once again that our staff understands your children will be returning to us with a variety of skill levels next fall, and we will meet them where they are. For now, please just let them know we care about them, we miss them, we want them to be safe, and we look forward to seeing them again soon.
All my best,
Week of May 18 - May 22
Friday, May 22, 2020
Ferndale School District Information Update
A letter to families from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sent Friday, May 22, 2020 with an information update.
Find previous communication update letters archived below the latest featured update.
Dear Ferndale Families,
Ever since our school buildings were shut down in the middle of March, our District Administrative Team has been meeting on Tuesday and Thursday mornings via Zoom. We begin these bi-weekly meetings by sharing good things -- to remind one another to be grateful for everything that’s right about our current situation and to keep ourselves from getting overwhelmed by the challenges. In the same spirit, I want to start this letter with some good things.
- The City of Ferndale’s iconic pink flower baskets are now hanging along Main Street, which is always a visible sign that summer is nearly upon us.
- Our dedicated Ferndale School District staff is continuing to prepare and deliver over 9,000 meals to children every single week.
- We are two thirds of the way through our new distance learning reality for the 2019-2020 school year. This marks our tenth week since school buildings were closed. We have five to go before June 19.
- This week culminates with a three-day weekend, and I am going to see my children and grandson for the first time in three months. After work on Friday, my husband Ken and I are driving to Portland for an in-immediate-family-only Memorial Day reunion. Our grandson, Raynor, turned three yesterday (May 21), and we can hardly wait to give him a real hug.
In the remainder of this week’s letter, I want to respond to some of the questions we have received recently.
Q: I am hearing lots of discussion regarding fraudulent unemployment claims. What, if anything, can the School District share about this?
A: As many of you unfortunately are aware, a scam involving fraudulent unemployment claims is running rampant through Washington State. This scam has already impacted over a hundred of our Ferndale School District employees. Our Human Resources Department is reaching out to those employees who have been impacted to help them resolve the situation. And, of course, law enforcement is involved at the state and federal levels.
Because awareness of this scam could be important for everyone, I want to share a bit of additional information with our community.
A fraudulent filing indicates that an unknown third party likely has access to one or more elements of someone’s personal information (name, employer, social security number, etc.). As the current situation proves, this information in the wrong hands can be used for purposes of identity theft. Anyone who suspects they have been subject to identity theft should contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies for further assistance. They are as follows:
- Experian [www.experian.com] 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union [www.transunion.com] 1-855-681-3196
- Equifax [www.equifax.com] 1-888-548-7878
One of the ways that this fraud is happening is through State of Washington, Secure Access Washington (SAW) accounts. If you have a SAW account, you can check to see if your account is secure by following these steps:
1. Navigate to https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/
2. Login with your SAW information. Many state functions including license renewal use these accounts, so it is very likely you are already registered.
3. Once you’re in, follow the links to apply for unemployment. You’re not actually going to apply. The first step is identity verification. Fill out the requested information.
4. This is where you should pay special attention. If your information is tied to an email address that is not yours, you may be a victim of fraud.
5. If you find that you are the victim of fraud, go to ESD’s fraud page and report it. https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/unemployment-benefits-fraud
**Many thanks to Ferndale resident Sara O’Connor for sharing the information provided in these steps**
Additional resources are available at this link:
Q: I completed the online survey regarding distance learning, when will we see survey results?
A: As you know, last week we sent out a survey to gather information about how people are coping with this new reality and how we might improve our services. We administered a staff survey, a 6-12 student survey, and a family survey -- and I am pleased to report that we received a fairly large number of responses. To be exact, we received 437 completed surveys from staff, 587 from students in grades 6-12, and 732 from families.
Currently, we are in the process of collating and analyzing the survey results. Once we have done so, we plan to share a summary with all of you, along with some ideas about how we will use the information to make changes in the way we are doing things.
Q: Will there be Summer School in 2020?
A: For two reasons, we are not going to be running our full slate of summer school programs this year. The first reason is that some version of physical distancing will still be in place during the summer, and we don’t believe additional online learning and/or packets are going to address the needs of those students who generally attend summer school. The second reason is that, due to the levy failure, we are doing everything we can to reduce expenditures. Every dollar we can save now will help us maintain programs later.
The only two Summer School programs we are going to offer this summer are:
- Extended School Year (ESY) -- a special education program designed for students whose IEPs call for support beyond the 180 days of the regular school year.
- High School Credit Recovery -- online courses offered through a platform called Edgenuity designed to give secondary students the opportunity to make up failed credits and get back on track for graduation.
Q: Are the bond projects continuing during this period of shutdown?
A: The answer is yes. We are continuing to make progress on the projects included in the bond package Ferndale voters approved in February 2019.
Bond funds are completely separate from school district operating funds, which include levy dollars. We are not allowed to use bond funds to backfill any loss of funding created by the levy failure -- even if we wanted to. We are committed to using bond funds in the way our community intended them to be used.
With that said, I am pleased to report our bond projects are proceeding on budget and on schedule. I have been documenting our progress in weekly Bond Updates since shortly after the ballot measure was approved. In fact, I sent my 61st Friday progress report earlier today. If you are not currently subscribing to the weekly emails, you can do so at the following link: Subscribe Now.
Q: I keep hearing about “guidance from OSPI.” Can you tell me what OSPI stands for and where I can find out more information about the guidance they are providing schools?
A: OSPI stands for Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Led by Superintendent Chris Reykdal, OSPI is the primary agency charged with overseeing public K–12 education in Washington state. Working with the state's 295 public school districts and six state-tribal education compact schools, OSPI allocates funding and provides tools, resources, and technical assistance so every student in Washington is provided a high-quality public education. OSPI is housed in the Old Capitol Building in Olympia.
Since the onset of the pandemic, OSPI has established a special section of its website to house Covid-19 Guidance and Resources, which you can access here:
In addition to the information I am providing in this letter, Ferndale High School Principal Jeremy Vincent sent out a separate letter today to families with high schoolers addressing topics specific to FHS. Principal Vincent’s letter can be accessed here.
If you aren’t tired of reading yet, I encourage you to check out the latest story on our We Are Ferndale blog. It’s called “Levy Funded Tech Saved the Day,” it was published yesterday (May 21), and it can be accessed here:
As always, please reach out with questions. Take care, stay healthy, and have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.
Week of May 10 - May 16
Dear Ferndale Families,
I hope that you are all doing well and that you have enjoyed the beautiful weather we have had over the last week. It is beginning to feel a bit like summer.
Speaking of summer, I want to share with you something I introduced to our Ferndale School District staff on Wednesday. What I shared with them is that I am coming to the realization (along with many others in the world) that things are not likely going to be back to “normal” this summer. In fact, we may not be returning to “the way things used to be” for a long time. Going back to school in the fall of 2020 probably won’t look like it did in the fall of 2019. More and more professional meetings and journals are focusing on what reopened schools might look like, so I have started compiling a list of the ways people are predicting things will be changed. In order to provide as much physical distancing as possible, these changes might include:
- Some kind of staggered attendance with students coming for partial days or every other day.
- Continued reliance to some extent on remote learning and educational technology.
- Reconfiguration of instruction to maximize in-person time.
- Health screening of students and staff before allowing them to enter a school facility.
- More masks and other personal protective gear.
- Installation of hand-sanitizing stations.
- Increased sanitization of classrooms and buses.
- Plexiglas barriers.
- Desks spaced six feet apart.
- Lunch served in classrooms instead of the cafeteria.
- Alternating class times to minimize the number of people in hallways.
- Distancing marks on playgrounds.
- Use of bathrooms one at a time.
- Appointments for individual face-to-face tutoring sessions in the gymnasium.
- A prohibition on assemblies or other large gatherings.
- Athletic contests without fans in the stands.
No one has said for sure that these specific accommodations will be in place next fall. However, OSPI is recommending that (1) we begin to prepare for something other than business as usual in September, and (2) we don’t lock into any one particular plan until we receive more guidance from the state. To that end, the state is currently convening a group of a hundred or so educational stakeholders to take up the work of developing guidelines for reopening schools. Ferndale School Board member Lee Anne Riddle has been invited to be part of that group.
Planning for all of the scenarios we could possibly face next fall is a little overwhelming. However, I believe we are doing everything we can in Ferndale right now to be as prepared as possible for whatever changes come our way.
The more I have been thinking about all of this, the more I have become convinced the top three character traits we need to hone in 2020 are flexibility, resilience, and compassion. Fortunately, I continue to see so much evidence of all three every week. Thank you for the flexibility and compassion you have shown for us as we have reconfigured every aspect of our educational program -- everything except our love and care for your children.
In the remainder of this letter, I want to provide answers to some of the questions I have received recently:
Q: When will the Ferndale School District provide a time when I can pick up my children’s belongings from school buildings?
A: At elementary and middle schools, our principals developed a schedule for teachers and paraeducators to come in this week, bag students’ belongings, tag each bag with a student’s name, and arrange all the bags in the gym or another large area within their school.
Next week, elementary and middle school parents will have four times when they can come to the school to pick up their children’s bags. Principals will arrange to have staff runners on hand during these hours to go into the building, retrieve the bags, and deliver them to parents’ cars. The four pick-up times are as follows:
- Monday, May 18, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
- Wednesday, May 20, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
- Wednesday, May 20, 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
- Friday, May 22, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
We will do our best to deliver any belongings that are not picked up during one of these four times.
The high school administration will be publishing a schedule for their students to pick up personal items after May 26.
Q: How can I provide feedback regarding our current distance learning experience?
A: We definitely want to hear your feedback. For this purpose, we developed a confidential survey that asks you to tell us how you are doing and how the school district might be able to better support you. These surveys represent our way of checking in at the halfway point between the first day our school buildings were closed (March 17) and the last day of the 2019-2020 school year (June 19). In addition to sending the surveys electronically earlier this week, we have also had them available in hard copy, in several languages, at our learning packet distribution sites.
If you haven’t already taken the survey, here is the link to the online version: https://surveys.panoramaed.com/ferndale/communitysurvey
Note: If you are prompted to enter an access code, please use: "communitysurvey"
If you would prefer a hard copy survey, you can still get one at your school’s learning packet distribution site on Monday, May 18.
Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts (anonymously).
Q: I read a story about Ferndale School District employees making masks. Are there masks available to the community?
A: This is a story that I absolutely delight in telling you. A dedicated group of Ferndale School District staff has been making cloth face masks for people in our community since shortly after our school buildings were closed. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, they distributed hundreds of free masks to District staff, families, and community members from the FHS parking lot.
Several great partnerships have grown out of these mask making efforts. Bellingham Makerspace donated the elastic to the team, as well as providing them with sewing machines. Recently, the fire fighters from Station 41 on Washington Street donated $500 for mask materials. In exchange, our mask makers are supplying masks for the firefighters to fill the community pick-up box they’ve placed outside their station, as well as for them to give away anytime they go out on a call.
If any of you like to sew and have some extra time, the mask-making team would love to have you join them. They will provide you with "kits" that have enough precut fabric and elastic to make 10 masks. Every Sunday or Monday you will get a delivery of as many of these kits as you request. Then the following week, your finished masks will be picked up and more kits will be delivered. I want to thank the dedicated Ferndale School District paraeducators who have been working on this project.
Q: Is the Ferndale School District taking student attendance?
A: Last week (May 4-8) was the first week we asked all of our teachers to start recording engagement with students and families in Skyward in order to comply with the state’s new attendance taking requirements. (Note: Engagement for attendance purposes does not necessarily mean students are successfully completing their schoolwork, only that they are still connecting with us and remain part of our school community.) These student engagement/attendance records will be reported to the state.
Q: What are we doing to celebrate the Class of 2020?
A: A team of administrators and staff at Ferndale High School are continuing to work with seniors and parents to develop the best way(s) to honor the achievements of the Class of 2020 in our new physically-distanced world.
The state has recently come out with guidance allowing that, as in the past, senior students may be dismissed five days before the last day of school for everyone else. Therefore, Friday, June 12, will be the final school day for the members of the Class of 2020. That evening, we are planning (in conjunction with the City and the Police Department) Some kind of Senior Parade.
Commencement itself will occur on Saturday, June 13, in one of two formats -- either (1) a virtual ceremony produced with help from Jostens or (2) a modified in-person ceremony with students arriving in cars (one student and family per car) to a designated area on the campus to pick up their diploma. The high school administration put out a survey this week to allow students to vote on which of these two options they prefer.
The high school staff is also working on virtual versions of scholarship night and the School Board’s traditional honoring of outstanding seniors in each discipline.
Q: You said that a decision regarding athletics and activities would be coming by May 15. Do you have an update?
A: Let me start by saying this: Levies fund sports and activities in almost all school districts in Washington state. That is one of the reasons that we have levies. We recognize the positive impact sports and activities have on kids, and we, as citizens of a given district, decide together to make up the difference between state funding and local need. That is the reality of school funding in Washington.
That leaves us in a tough spot here in Ferndale. You are probably familiar with the vast body of research regarding the influence of sports and activities on students. It is very clear that without these opportunities, students suffer. As you also know, Ferndale did not pass the school district’s replacement levy last February. In addition to almost one hundred district staff members who are losing their jobs, one of the casualties of our levy failure should be athletics and activities for students. I say, “should” because without the levy, we do not have money earmarked for these activities.
What I am sharing with you today is that we have made a decision to save a version of our athletics and activities programs in Ferndale next year. The cost to students is too high to consider doing otherwise and, ultimately, that cost would have been born by students who are already navigating the challenging waters of a global pandemic.
We are still developing the details of our funding plan for athletics and activities, but we know it will involve the following elements:
- Using savings realized by not running a full schedule of spring sports in 2020.
- Instituting a pay-to-play fee for those students whose families can afford it.
- Finding scholarships for those students whose families cannot afford pay-to-play fees.
- Reducing transportation costs wherever possible.
- Reducing staff costs wherever possible, including replacing some support positions that are currently paid with volunteers.
- Eliminating “C” teams from our athletic program.
- Changing our middle school athletic programs from interscholastic to intramural.
- Soliciting donations.
We are committing to athletics and activities for the 2020-2021 school year. However, we do not believe our plan is sustainable beyond that time period unless the levy passes in November. We will follow up with more specific details as they become available.
If you haven’t already had enough to read, I encourage you to check out the stories written and published last week by members of our Communication Team about our retiring teachers. You can find all of the stories in our series here.
I think that’s everything for this week. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have additional questions or suggestions.
Take care and stay healthy.
Week of May 3 - May 9
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
I am sending this letter at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week. In normal years, our school buildings are full of celebrations in honor of our teachers. We were not able to be together to celebrate this year, but we marked the week with a series of very special stories in honor of our retiring teachers. I hope that you take a moment to read these stories and join me in saying “job well done.” You can find all of the stories in our series here.
As we close this very different Teacher Appreciation Week, I also want to thank all of you who were thrust overnight into becoming home teachers, helping your students navigate the learning plans from their school teachers. Please know how much we appreciate you and your partnership. We truly are all in this together.
I have already sent several communications this week. In case you missed them, here are links:
- A letter to families of secondary students about secondary grading practices for this semester (May 6). The letter is available on our website and archived in our Update Center.
- A letter to families of elementary students about elementary grading for this semester (May 7). The letter is available on our website and archived in our Update Center.
In the remainder of this letter, I want to provide answers to a few of the questions we have received recently:
Q: How can I provide feedback regarding the current distance learning experience?
A: We definitely want to hear your feedback. Therefore, I am pleased to share a link to a confidential survey that asks you to tell us how you are doing and how the school district might be able to better support you. These surveys represent our way of checking in at the halfway point between the first day our school buildings were closed (March 17) and the last day of the 2019-2020 school year (June 19). In addition to sending the surveys electronically, we will also have them available in hard copy, in several languages, at our learning packet distribution sites. I thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts (anonymously).
Here is the link to our survey: https://surveys.panoramaed.com/ferndale/communitysurvey
Note: If you are prompted to enter an access code, please use: "communitysurvey"
Q: How and when can I retrieve my child’s personal belongings from the school building?
A: We have received several inquiries about getting personal items out of our classrooms and schools. Our team has developed a plan for this, which is being implemented first at the elementary level. Staff members will place your child’s belongings in a labeled bag that you will be able to pick up at the school during a specific time period. You should hear from your building principals shortly about the specific timeline for your school. Thank you for your patience.
Q: When will you make a decision about offering athletics and activities next year?
A: I committed to publishing an answer on this topic by May 15, and we will meet that commitment. Several members of our team have been working on a plan for funding athletics and activities through a combination of (1) savings realized by not running spring sports, (2) pay-to-play fees for families that can afford them, (3) volunteer help where we can get it, (4) donations, and (5) any other creative ideas they can come up with. We intend to be able to put out something more definitive by the end of next week.
Q: My student is making a transition from elementary to middle school next year. What is being done to facilitate this transition?
A: We know transitions are important -- elementary to middle school and middle school to high school -- and we try to do as much as we can to ease them for students. In normal times, we provide support in the form of building visits, open houses, and other individual in-person guidance. This year, many of those traditional options are not available. Therefore, we are figuring out how we can create alternatives. The most important thing for you to know at this point is that you and your child have not missed anything related to one of these important transitions. We will follow up with more information during the next few weeks.
Q: How will the Ferndale School District handle food distribution over the Memorial Day Weekend?
A: Food service will be preparing and distributing triple meals on Friday, May 22, for the Memorial Day weekend. We will not be distributing food on Memorial Day (Monday, May 25). (Triple meals means lunch for Friday, breakfast and lunch for Monday and Tuesday, and breakfast for Wednesday -- a total of six meals.)
I hope that your family is staying safe and healthy -- and that the sunshine is bringing some joy to your life. I took a break from working yesterday and went out in the yard to pick a bouquet. I told my husband Ken I was making my own Mother’s Day bouquet this year, since we can’t see our kids. (Actually, they are planning a family Zoom on Sunday, but it’s not the same.)
Take care and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
Yesterday I sent a memo to families of secondary students to explain the grading model we will use this semester at the secondary level. This letter is to let you know how we will be evaluating our elementary students.
Our primary aim is to ensure that no student is harmed by the school closure, as directed by our Governor and State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). To this end, we will implement the following elementary-level grading and report card plan for the remainder of this school year.
Evaluation of new learning work completed by students during the period of school closure will not be used to calculate a student’s final grade. Staff will provide feedback based on student learning and engagement in the continuous learning process we are providing. This feedback will be intended to promote participation, progress, and growth.
Elementary students will receive a report card at the end of the year. However, the report card will not include standards-based grades for second semester. All subject areas on the report card will either be “grayed out” or designated with a “DL” to indicate essential academic standards or skills were offered through a distance learning (DL) model. (Please note: Our grade-level teams have worked collaboratively to identify the same essential standards and skills for all students in that grade across the district.) The report cards will also include personalized comments focusing on areas of strength and encouraging growth for each individual child. Finally, the report cards will contain a consistent statement regarding the Covid-19 school closure.
We are aware some families are concerned about whether their student(s) will be able to move on to the next grade in the fall. The answer is yes for the vast majority of children. We know some learning is going to be missed or lost during this period when traditional school has been shut down. We know when we return to classrooms, we will need to meet all kids where they are and provide targeted support to match their individual needs. As such, we do not believe students who have missed some content or skills because of our current distance learning model should be required to repeat their grade. Only in rare occasions when the classroom teacher, the building administrator, and the parent all reach consensus that retention would be in the best interest of the child will we consider it.
During the final weeks of the school year, our elementary team will make every effort to maintain weekly contact with families. This contact may take a variety of forms -- emails, phone calls, class dojo or remind messages, log-ins to online learning resources, participation in class zoom sessions, or work with one of our support staff. We have been asked by the state to track such engagement on a weekly basis, and we encourage families to help us with this process.
Even when we are not together in our school buildings, we are a community. Within the next few days, all families will be receiving a survey asking how they are doing and how the school district might be able to better support them. This is our way of checking in at the halfway point between the first day our school buildings were closed (March 17) and the last day of the 2019-2020 school year (June 19). Thank to everyone in advance for sharing your thoughts.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions.
Dear Ferndale students, staff, families and community,
I am writing to you today to let you know we have made a final decision about grading for this semester in our secondary schools.
We have been processing different models since OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) first came out with the state’s new grading rules on April 22. I want to thank those of you who have shared with us your thoughts, suggestions, and questions regarding this topic. Although our conversations have demonstrated that we are not all of one mind, we need to make one decision about how to proceed -- and we have.
We have decided to temporarily suspend the traditional A-F grading system and use only two marks in our secondary schools for spring semester of the 2019-2020 school year. When second semester ends in June, all students will receive either an “A” or an “Incomplete” for each of the courses in which they are enrolled. (Note: There will be a designation on students’ transcripts to indicate the courses were taken during a period of distance learning due to the Covid-19 emergency.)
We made this decision based on a number of factors, including the guidance from the state superintendent which called on us to “do no harm” and to focus on “compassion and common sense.”
Along with this decision, we are communicating the following expectations:
- Students are expected, to the extent possible, to remain engaged in learning activities assigned by their teachers in order to earn an “A” for their semester grade.
- Teachers are expected to assign activities and lessons aligned to the most essential learning standards for each course/subject area they teach.
- Teachers are expected to provide feedback to students aimed at promoting progress, growth, and engagement.
- Teachers are expected to issue an “Incomplete” only in rare instances when students have failed to engage after teachers, counselors, and/or administrators have made multiple attempts to contact them.
We are also refining our process for student evaluation at the elementary level, and we expect to share information with you soon.
Again, we want to thank everyone who provided input or helped us wrestle with this decision. In the end, we settled on an approach that we believe best serves the interests of ALL our students. The individual circumstances in which they are trying to learn at home vary wildly. Although our staff is doing what they can to offer support, we simply cannot help our students deal with the variety of challenges they are struggling to overcome to take part in the distance learning we are providing. We believe these unprecedented times call for generosity and compassion. Giving all students who engage with their schoolwork “A” grades communicates the love and grace our students need from us.
In the remainder of this memo, I have tried to address some of the questions I expect our grading decision will engender.
1. What other districts have decided to implement the A/I grading system?
In Whatcom County, we know Bellingham and Mt. Baker School Districts have adopted the same A/I plan we will use in Ferndale. We are also aware that Seattle and Bellevue School Districts have decided to implement the A/I grading model. While we don’t yet have a complete list of all districts that have adopted this model, the five districts mentioned here represent great diversity -- from Seattle to Mt. Baker -- and over 10% of all of Washington’s students.
2. Doesn’t the A/I grading system do harm to those students who have put in the extra effort to truly earn “A” grades?
We have heard from some who believe this A/I grading system flies in the face of the principle that hard work should reap rewards, and students will be learning the wrong lesson if we don’t somehow punish them for not doing their schoolwork well enough during this global pandemic. The truth is that we have no way to assess who is working hard right now.
Some of our kids are working hard to overcome internet access issues. Some are being expected to provide childcare for younger siblings so their parents can work. Some have become errand-runners for family members with compromised immune systems. Some have taken jobs to help pay rent and utilities. Some are homeless. And our hearts go out to them.
On the other hand, some of our students have the luxury of working hard on their learning packets in a warm home, in a quiet and comfortable setting, on their own laptop, with good internet access and parents to support them. And we are glad for them.
We realize these kinds of inequities are always with us to some extent. However, when in-person school is in session, our staff is able to spend six hours a day working with students to try to close some of the gaps. Our current distance learning model, with all its challenges, cannot address inequities nearly enough. Exacerbating the gaps even further with punishing grades doesn’t feel right. The most loving and equitable thing we can do during this remote learning period is give them all “A” grades if they engage to the extent they are able.
In short, we do not believe the harm caused to high-performing students by not having differentiated grades for one semester can outweigh the potential harm a traditional grading system could have on students who have been thrust into extremely challenging life situations through no fault of their own.
3. By just giving away “A” grades, aren’t you telling students that their work doesn’t really matter?
We believe all of our students are learning new lessons about real-life struggles of survival as they deal with a crisis none of us has ever experienced. We know some of them are necessarily engaged in activities that are more important for them right now than academic work -- and they are learning from these activities.
We have communicated to our students that we expect them to remain engaged in learning activities assigned by their teachers to the greatest extent possible. With that said, we know we are asking them to learn in new ways under new conditions. Therefore, we want to give them the space and grace to focus on doing their schoolwork with whatever capacity they have -- rather than stressing about letter grades during this global pandemic.
We hope parents and guardians will join us in encouraging their children to continue to do the right thing and the best schoolwork they are capable of doing, regardless of whether that work is being graded in a traditional way. And for those top-performing students who end up with extra time on their hands, we hope parents and guardians will join us in encouraging them to take up a new hobby or learn something new on their own.
4. By giving all “A” grades, aren’t you telling parents that teachers just don’t want to put in the effort to teach, to work with students, or to evaluate their learning?
We have communicated to our teachers that we expect them to create lessons and assignments aligned to the most essential learning standards for each course they teach. We expect them to provide feedback to students aimed at promoting progress and engagement. We expect them to communicate with students and/or families about the student’s educational growth and development to the extent feasible. So far we have evidence that the vast majority of our teachers are meeting these expectations. We have no reason to believe that will change because of our grading decision.
While we expect our teachers to provide feedback to students, we also know their ability to grade them fairly is impossible in our current situation. For those students who have to rely on hard copy learning packets, teachers may not be able to get formative feedback to them for several weeks -- something we know is not best practice and we would never condone during in-person school. For those students who are submitting their work online, teachers can’t truly know who is doing the work. As one of our teachers stated, “If we were to use differentiated letter grades at this time, all we would be grading is privilege, access, and support.”
5. Do you truly believe those students who were getting “D” grades or “C” grades when in-person school was canceled should be rewarded for the situation we are in? How can you give them the same grade you give those who choose to work hard?
We can’t possibly know each student’s pandemic experience. There is a chance that a C, D, or even an F will be deserved. There is also a chance that such a grade will be one more obstacle for a student who is battling to overcome unimaginable odds.
Students who were receiving a grade lower than an “A” when our buildings closed lost all opportunities to have their playing field leveled by the kinds of interventions we provide in an in-person school setting. They no longer have teachers at their sides to provide encouragement and just-in-time feedback. They have lost most of their access to after-school study, academic coaching, tutoring, and the help of intervention specialists.
Giving every student an “A” neutralizes complex inequities, ensuring none of them is harmed academically for being forced into this pandemic. It assures every student that we see them and that we acknowledge they have experienced a school year unlike any other in our lifetimes.
The bottom line is this: We feel all right about giving a student an “A” grade who may never have gotten one before. Now, more than any time in the past, we believe we can best serve our students by offering them hope.
6. Isn’t a system of all “A” grades the same as giving every kid a participation ribbon?
Perhaps it is. However, we don’t think it is unlike the loans the government is giving businesses, or the $1200 economic impact checks they are sending individuals to help them deal with this crisis. Our students have also encountered a crisis, and we are providing them with a stimulus grading plan. We want to give hope to some of them who need it most. If the “A” grades they earn this semester inspire them to work harder to earn more “A”s when grading returns to normal, we will all be delighted.
7. What is it going to say to colleges when they see a whole class of students getting straight “A” grades?
Colleges will know this semester’s grades were not earned under regular conditions. There will be a designation on students’ transcripts to indicate that a course was taken during a period of school facility closure due to the Covid-19 emergency. In addition, there will be an indication if required credits associated with a specific course were waived under the State Board of Education emergency rules for the Class of 2020.
We do not believe the post-high-school educational system will be significantly impacted by our giving everyone who has engaged an “A” grade this one time -- especially since high school transcripts will reflect the unique circumstances and every university in the world will be aware of the situation.
For some college-bound students, this could become a great time to discover a new interest, develop a new hobby, learn a new skill, or find a way to provide community service -- all of which are excellent ways to show colleges they are well-rounded learners who would be good choices for their institutions.
8. What happens if a student receives an Incomplete?
Incompletes are reserved for students who cannot or will not engage in the learning activities we provide. We intend that Incompletes will be the exception rather than the rule, especially since we realize we are going to have to help many of our students get caught up when they return to in-person learning.
According to the state’s expectations, when students do receive Incompletes, teachers will work with them and their parents/guardians to provide opportunities for re-engaging with the learning and changing those Incompletes into letter grades. When this has been accomplished, the Incompletes will be updated on students’ transcripts.
The state’s rules allow students to resolve their Incompletes any time before they graduate from high school.
As always, please reach out if you have questions.
All the best,
Week of April 26 - May 2
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
Governor Inslee announced today that he is extending Washington’s Stay Home Stay Healthy order through May 31st. I think all of us were hoping that by May we would be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, it appears we are going to need to be doing life in this new way a while longer. Yesterday’s news that the Northwest Washington Fair has been canceled is the latest disappointment, and I know it will impact many of our students. If your children are feeling the need for some extra support, please know our counselors, teachers, and principals are here for them. Reach out to us.
On a brighter note, I want to remind you that the first full week in May (this year May 4-8) is always when we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. This year there is much to celebrate about the way our teachers have figured out on a moment’s notice how to transition from in-person education in school buildings to learning-at-home lessons. I hope you will join me in honoring our teachers next week with an email or a note. If you or your student want to send a physical card or picture, you can mail them to the district office (PO Box 698, Ferndale 98248) and I will make sure we get them to the right place.
In the remainder of this letter, I want to provide answers to a few of the questions you may have:
Q: What is the status of the transition to Canvas at the secondary level?
A: As I mentioned in one of my previous letters, we recently asked all our secondary teachers to begin using the Canvas learning management platform to send instruction and receive assignments from their students. Over half of our teachers were already Canvas users, since it is the platform we adopted several years ago, and those who are not prior users have risen to the occasion. I anticipate all secondary staff will be using Canvas by the middle of May. We hope this transition will help everyone -- teachers, students, and parents.
Q: When is the last day of school for the 2019-2020 school year?
A: Our last day of school for the 2019-2020 school year will be Friday, June 19. When we built our calendar for the 2019-2020 school year, the last day of school was scheduled as Friday, June 12. Since we missed three days due to inclement weather, the last day of school was pushed back to Wednesday, June 17. As a result of the shutdown of in-person education due to the pandemic, the State has now declared the last day of school as Friday, June 19.
Q: I have seen information about the US Census. Can you share an update?
A: One month has passed since the official Census Day on April 1, but it is not too late to be counted. If you haven’t done so already, please take ten minutes to complete the 2020 census. The Census helps Washington get the national resources and representation we need. The Census helps determine funding for the Ferndale School District. Today, our funding needs are clearer than ever. Help out our state. Help out our school district. Be counted. Complete the census online at 2020census.gov or call 844.330.2020.
Before I sign off, I want to share our latest blog story. It spotlights the love and care our staff have for students. Sometimes that love looks like dancing and singing in video messages, which you can access here:
I will have additional updates for you next week including a decision regarding grading at the secondary level and an opportunity to provide feedback through a survey. Please let your children know how much we miss them.
All my best,
Week of April 19 - April 25
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
I need to start this letter by acknowledging yesterday’s announcement from Alcoa that Intalco Works is slated for closure. Reports indicate that 700 jobs are at stake. If you are impacted by this closure, will you please reach out to me to let me know how we can support your family right now? I am in touch with counterparts in various government organizations, and I am moving forward with our Ferndale School District staff to come up with a plan to provide whatever help we can. I shared a statement today that I am including here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/news/1679666/ferndale-school-district-statement-as-alcoa-to-close-intalco-works-smelter
As we approach the six-week mark in our new physically-distanced reality, I hope you are staying safe and healthy. It is definitely not the April 2020 we had planned, but it is what we have. And I am proud of the way we are working together to make things work.
I want to share a piece of good news. Cascadia and Beach are two of 391 schools in Washington State that have been recognized by the State Board of Education and OSPI for closing gaps, showing growth, and demonstrating achievement during the 2018-2019 school year. According to the press release that came out yesterday, they are being celebrated “to highlight schools that have received support and are thriving.”
While the State’s equation for recognition singles out particular schools, please know I am fully aware of the exceptional efforts and results that have occurred in each of our schools and departments over the past year. Our recognition extends to all of our school staffs and students.
In the remainder of this letter, I want to answer the questions I have received recently from staff and families.
Q: I appreciated getting elementary learning plans on the Saturday prior to the start of the school week. Can the School District guarantee Saturday delivery?
A: We are working hard to make learning plans available on our website by Saturday each week. Unfortunately, we have less control over the hard copy packets, which have to be written, copied, assembled, and put in the mail within the span of a few days.
We are looking at a number of options for our hard copy packet production that may help us to increase efficiency. We are hopeful, but we are not able to make a guarantee regarding when the packets will hit your mailboxes.
Q: How is my student being graded right now?
A: The State put out new rules about grading yesterday. These new rules (which are not options but actual rules) are built on one main philosophical underpinning, which is “do no harm.” At the elementary level, all students making reasonable progress will be advanced to the next grade. Kellie Larrabee will be working with a group of principals and teachers to determine what our end-of-year report to elementary families will look like.
At the secondary level, the rules are a little more complicated. They include the following:
- Students will receive a letter grade or an “I” for incomplete for each course in which they are enrolled.
- Marks of “Pass,” “Fail,” or “No Credit” will not be allowed this term (except for courses that were already offered as Pass/Fail).
- No student may receive a final grade lower than the one he or she was earning on March 16, when in-person school was shut down. Students can only improve their grades.
- Any student who receives an Incomplete must be provided opportunities to re-engage in the learning standards to earn a credit and a grade during summer or next fall.
- Every grade awarded this spring will be given a statewide Covid designator on the high school transcript to denote the unique environment in which the course was taken.
- Local school districts may determine which letter grades (A, B, C, D) they will offer in their new system.(They are not required to offer all traditional grades.)
I had a meeting yesterday afternoon with our Ferndale secondary principals about the grading system. They are committed to processing this information with their school leadership teams before we make a final decision about what grades we will offer.
If you want to read the entire OSPI Bulletin explaining the new grading rules, you can access it here:
Q: When can my student retrieve items left at school?
A: We have received a number of inquiries from both families and staff about when they can get their personal items out of their classrooms, especially now that we know we are not going back this school year. I want you to know that we hear you and that we are responding. We are currently in the process of putting together a small representative committee of administrators and staff members to develop a safe and orderly system for returning property to staff and students. I expect we will have a plan to share with you by May 1.
Q: Will my student’s teacher begin Zoom calls?
A: While we have given all teachers guidelines for Zoom usage, we are not requiring them to use Zoom to communicate with students. Some teachers may decide not to use Zoom for a variety of reasons, and we respect and support that decision. Teachers who opt not to use Zoom are expected to be in contact with students in other ways, including email and phone.
Q: What should I do if my student is not being contacted regularly by his or her teacher(s)?
A: Our expectations is that teachers reach out to their students once per week by telephone, email, or videoconference. If you are concerned that you child is not being contacted, I recommend you start by calling or emailing the teacher directly. If you do not hear back within two business days, you should contact the principal. We want to know if there are breaks in communication so we can help resolve any obstacles.
Please know that some of our teachers are using their personal cell phones to contact students. Therefore, they are using the *67 feature, which prevents their phone number from showing up on the receiver’s phone. If you receive a “blocked number” phone call, it could be a teacher.
Q: Will there be sports and activities in the Ferndale School District this fall, given the failure of the levy in February?
A: We have received a number of emails from staff and families asking about whether we are going to have sports and activities in the fall, since we won’t know yet whether the levy will pass in November. It is true that the levy funds the district’s portion of all extracurricular athletics and activities. It is also true that waiting until the November 3 election is too late for fall sports. However, we can hardly imagine Ferndale schools without sports and activities. Therefore, we are working hard to figure out how we can pull together enough resources to fund our fall extracurricular schedule. Our goal is to have a definitive answer about fall sports and activities by May 15.
Q: Will the School District offer support to parents during this time?
A: Our compassionate district counselors are developing new ways to support parents during this transition to distance learning and life at home during the pandemic. Specifically, they are making plans to offer three different kinds of opportunities for parents to connect with them and with each other to share ideas, resources, and whatever other kind of support is needed. These include (1) one-on-one coaching calls, (2) small parent support groups, and (3) open “coffee with the counselors” Zoom sessions. They want to provide a Spanish parent Zoom support call as well. Watch for more details about these opportunities within the next week or so -- either online or on a flyer in your student’s learning packet.
Q: Does the School District have information about when the Governor may re-open the state?
A: The short answer is “no.” We do not know anything apart from what has been said in public. What we can say is that, so far, the Governor has used a science-based approach to making decisions regarding this pandemic, and we believe that he will continue to do that. We will monitor continuing guidance from the Governor’s office and report back what we hear.
I will end this letter by sharing the guest column we shared at the beginning of this week from Marci Schneider, a special education teacher at Horizon who runs that school’s behavior program and who also did her principal internship last year. As a former teacher at an online school, Marci tells the story of juggling her own work as a distance learning provider with the management of her children’s at-home education. She offers ten parent-friendly suggestions based on her personal experiences. You can access Marci’s piece here:
Thank you, families, for everything you are doing right now. We are accomplishing seemingly impossible things together – working, educating students, and taking care of loved ones. Please know that I think of you constantly. Reach out to me if you have questions or need support. The Ferndale School District is here for you.
All my best.
Week of April 12 - April 18
Dear Ferndale School District Families,
Our last day of in-person school was exactly one month ago -- March 16. It’s been one month that has seemed like a lifetime on the one hand and a blink of an eye on the other. One month is a long time to be away from friends and teachers and co-workers. One month is an eternity when it’s measuring the distance between opportunities to hug my grandson. However, one month is not much time at all when the goal is completely redesigning the way a school district operates to provide services to more than 4500 students. But that’s what we have been doing.
As you know, we hit the ground running this week with the next phase of our learning plans. Last Friday (April 10), a video featuring five of our elementary principals went out to the families of all elementary students with information about the packets of lessons each student would be receiving on Saturday or Monday through the U.S. Mail. You can access the video here: https://youtu.be/eCQfhmxKR2o.
Our secondary students are receiving new content directly from their regular instructors. In our current situation, we are extremely thankful for the existing infrastructure of our 1:1 technology program in grades 6-12. The fact that our secondary students have already been issued school district devices has made the impossible nearly possible in many regards. As I have witnessed colleagues in other districts scrambling to try to procure devices for students, I have appreciated what we already have devices for students here in Ferndale. Last Wednesday (April 8), a letter went out to the families of all secondary students with information about the lessons to follow from each of their teachers. You can access the principals’ letter with more details about secondary learning plans here.
In addition to lessons, many of our school staffs have been sending messages of support as well. As an example, here is a link to the one the Ferndale High School staff shared last week: https://animoto.com/play/Sp1cgwAh7RKlCe9JbGDxog
I know that this transition is not easy and it is not ideal. I want to thank you, Ferndale families and community, for your hard work and support. I am aware there have been bumps for some of you. I suspect educating students from home is one of the most challenging things you may undertake as a parent or family member. Please know that our goal is to support you in every way we can. Ferndale staff are working diligently and at all hours to implement distance learning for every one of our more than 4500 Ferndale students. As we transition together, please do not forget that we are here for you, and I encourage you to reach out to your student’s teachers at any time.
With all of our usual ways of doing things turned upside down and inside out, we are also making a concerted effort to share more stories about the work that is happening behind the scenes. We know we are all currently writing history in a metaphorical sense. We decided we also want to do our part to create a literal record. To this end, we have begun publishing a series of guest columns for a special blog series documenting life in the Ferndale School District during the Covid-19 closure of our school buildings. We hope you enjoy reading those stories which have been shared on social media and here:
- Horizon Principal Faye Britt authored a piece called “Retooling Education: Like a Duck Under Water,” which we published on April 3. Here is the link to Faye’s piece: https://www.ferndalesd.org/communications/blog/1621642/retooling-education-like-a-duck-under-water
- Eagleridge Principal Mischa Burnett authored a piece called “Ferndale School District Staff Leading Mask-Making Efforts in Whatcom County.” Here is the link to Mischa’s piece: https://www.ferndalesd.org/communications/blog/1621718/ferndale-school-district-staff-leading-mask-making-efforts-in-whatcom-county.
- I wrote over the weekend called “Paraeducators Go the Distance for Students: A Conversation with Michele Barmore.” Here is the link to that story: https://www.ferndalesd.org/communications/blog/1621725/paraeducators-go-the-distance-for-students-a-conversation-with-michele-barmore
In the remainder of today’s letter, I want to respond to a few of the questions I have received recently. The answers are shared below:
- Q: How is the District keeping staff safe while they provide essential services?
A: We are doing a lot of work right now to refine our safety protocols for staff. These are some of the measures we have instituted to protect them:
- We are requiring staff wear masks when they are serving food to students and families.
- When students arrive onsite for the childcare program we are offering in partnership with the YMCA at Cascadia, our nursing staff is taking their temperatures to ensure they are not exhibiting signs of illness.
- We have shut off building key card access to all staff except authorized personnel (such as custodians, food service workers, and administrators), and we are requiring them to make an appointment with their administrator to enter their school or classroom if they absolutely need to. By doing this, we are better able to (1) limit the overall number of people in our buildings, (2) track those who do need to enter, and (3) create schedules for custodial and maintenance staff that meet physical distancing guidelines.
- We have asked all staff to notify their supervisors if they experience Covid-like symptoms so that we can take appropriate protective measures.
- Q: How is the District accounting for employee work during this time?
A: The Ferndale School District, like all school districts in Washington State, is submitting weekly reports to the state on how we are fulfilling their expectations. One of those expectations is to ensure that, if we are continuing to pay our employees, we are accounting for their all being engaged in meaningful work. At this time, our accounting procedure is to have all employees report daily to their administrator or his/her designee regarding the projects they are working on.
- Q: How is the District working to assess technology needs?
A: Our secondary school staffs have worked hard to assess exactly which students are unable to access the internet so we can either (1) figure out how to get them internet access or (2) find a different way to deliver learning plans to them.
We have done a similar assessment at the elementary level. However, because the district has not implemented a one-to-one technology model for elementary students, many more of them are not able to get online to do their lessons. Currently, we are working to dismantle our elementary computer labs so we can issue chrome books to fourth and fifth graders who do not currently have a device in their homes they can use.
- Q: My student is receiving assignments from teachers in various formats including Canvas, Skyward and OneNote. Will the District consider transitioning to one platform so that learning feels more streamlined
A: This transition to distance learning has made us realize we all need to “get on the same page” with regards to the platform(s) we are using to deliver lessons to students.
At the secondary level, our goal is to get all teachers using Canvas in May. We have begun professional development for our staff to facilitate this transition. We are currently brainstorming additional ways we can support our staff as they move to this new model.
At the elementary level, we are still exploring which learning management system we want to adopt. Expect to hear more on this topic later
- Q: What will the District do to celebrate the Class of 2020?
A: Principal Vincent and I had a zoom meeting earlier this week with student leaders of the Class of 2020. They are, of course, very interested in having an in-person commencement ceremony at some point. However, they have also come to terms with the reality that it is not likely to be possible in June. We talked about some kind of virtual event in June, and we settled on a “both/and” approach rather than “either/or.” That is, we are going to plan something online at the end of the current school year and also a traditional ceremony as soon as that option becomes available. Here is the information Principal Vincent sent to families of seniors earlier today:
- Graduation: We will be doing both a senior recognition digital presentation and a physical in-person graduation. The digital presentation will be presented on the last day of school for Seniors (TBD) and we are hoping for a Saturday in August for our traditional graduation ceremony. If we are still not able to meet in large gatherings in August we will look for a time in December of 2020 for a graduation ceremony.
- Prom: Senior parents are working on a Grad Night/Prom event, TBD
- Scholarship & Awards Night: This will be a digital presentation sent out to our entire school community to view. Students being recognized will be contacted by Mrs. Zink.
- Last Day of School Parade (TBD): Towards the end of the school year and if we get permission from the city we are hoping to do a parade with our graduating class, while practicing social distancing in cars. More details on this event as it develops.
- Grad Walk: This year’s Grad Walk will be scheduled for the last day of school before Winter Break of the 2020-2021 school year. It’s our hope that many of our class of 2020 students will be home on this date.
- Yearbook: We will have a yearbook! More info coming.
- What about celebrating our kindergarteners, 5th graders and 8th graders?
A: We are in the process of thinking through how we can honor our students who, in the old world, would have been celebrating moving up from kindergarten, 5th grade and 8th grade this spring. We know that these are important passages, and we want to find meaningful ways to recreate our traditions in this new world.
- Q: Will my student be graded on work during this time?
A: We know grading is a question on the minds of many students and parents, especially at the secondary level. For third quarter, we intend to issue students a Pass or No Credit rather than a letter grade. Since third quarter grades are essentially a formal progress report, and they are not posted on students’ permanent transcripts, this will not impact secondary students’ GPAs. We are not making a final decision about grades for fourth quarter until we get more guidance from the state about the expectations of colleges and universities. Our commitment is to eliminate, or reduce to the greatest extent possible, any negative impact of this situation on our students’ futures.
We did learn this week that the University of Washington (and a number of other colleges and universities across the country) have decided to forgo the ACT or SAT as a college admission requirement for the incoming class of 2020.
- Q: Is the Ferndale School District intending to run a Levy this year?
A: Yes. At their April 7 meeting, the Ferndale School Board made the decision to wait until the November 3 general election to rerun our levy. This was another very difficult decision. On the one hand, waiting until November means we will be forced to move forward with the program changes and Reductions In Force (RIFs) necessary to create a balanced budget for 2020-2021 without levy dollars. On the other hand, the Board believes that at this time we need to maintain our focus on the effort in front of us, which is responding to Covid-19 and supporting students and families as we get through this pandemic together.
- Q: The District shared information about the U.S. Census. Can you provide an update?
A: As you know, 2020 is the year of the U.S. Census. Census return rates are only about 50% in our region. If you haven’t done so already, we recommend that you go online to complete the census questionnaire. The results will help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states, communities, and school districts each year. When you respond to the census, your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. You can access the Census here.
That’s all for today -- but I will write again soon. It’s important to try to keep everyone in the loop as we live through this unprecedented crisis. Although we are being required to maintain physical distance, please know you are not alone. We are in this together.
All my best,
Week of April 5 - April 11
Dear Ferndale Families,
In the old world, I would have begun this letter by telling you I hoped you were all having a wonderful Spring Break. However, in our new world Spring Break hasn’t had the same meaning. At the District Office, we have continued to work “as usual”, which means in the same manner as we have since the Governor issued his Stay Home-Stay Healthy order. Food service workers have continued to make meals. Other staff have continued to deliver them. We have continued to provide childcare services. Many of our employees have continued to work to keep our organization running and to get ready to launch Phase Two of our learning plans.
I suspect your Spring Break hasn’t been much of a break either, although the weather has been lovely, the views of Mt. Baker have been breathtaking, and the full moon is one of the brightest I have ever seen. I try to remember to count my blessings one of which is definitely living in this beautiful corner of the country.
Your children are probably tired of being separated from their friends and teachers at school. However, we learned several days ago that this new reality has been extended through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. On April 6, Governor Jay Inslee held a press conference to announce that in-person learning in our school buildings has been suspended through June. Following the Governor’s announcement, State Superintendent of Public instruction Chris Reykdal published a statement that included the following:
We have more than 1.2 million students in our state who are impacted by this. Over 80,000 seniors may have attended their last in-person high school class without knowing it.
Just as our great-grandparents understood after two World Wars and the Great Depression, this generation will grow up knowing how to persevere in the face of challenges.
Especially during times of uncertainty, students need our support. They need grace, and structure, and routine. Even though the world may feel like it’s upside down, our students need to know that we will move forward.
These next two months will be tough, I won’t diminish that. However, learning must continue.
You can access Superintendent Reykdal’s entire statement at this link: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAOSPI/bulletins/2852f99
Now that we know we are in this for the long haul, our staff has been considering the importance of the words we choose to talk about our situation to students. We are going to stop saying that school is “closed,” because that isn’t really true. Our school buildings are closed, but learning will continue. The Governor has not cancelled education. He has cancelled traditional, in-person instruction. I read an article last night that suggested even the term “social distancing” might send the wrong message. We have not been given a directive to suspend relationships during this containment period. What has actually been prescribed is “physical distancing,” maintaining a certain amount of space between ourselves and others to prevent the spread of the virus. There is rarely a good time to be socially distant, especially for children and teenagers. They need connections and emotional support more than ever during these stressful times.
As we enter the next phase of our learning plans for your children, we are asking all of our teachers to make more connections. Specifically, we have asked them to reach out to their students at least once a week. At the elementary level, where most students have only one teacher, they will generally hear from that teacher more than once a week. At the middle level, where students are enrolled in six classes, they will hear from all six teachers every week (generally via email). At the high school level, where most students take eight classes, they will be contacted by eight teachers each week. We realize emails and phone calls can never take the place of in-person connections -- face-timing with my three-year-old grandson is not the same as being able to give him a hug -- but we are going to do the best we can to let your children know we are thinking about them and we care about them and their learning.
Speaking of their learning, all families with secondary students should have received a letter from our principals on Wednesday (April 8) with more details about the next phase of our learning plans, which has begun to roll out this week and will be fully implemented the week of April 13. The vast majority of secondary learning plans will be sent to you via the internet, a process that has been facilitated by the fact that we are a one-to-one district at the secondary level, which means each of our students in grades 6-12 has been issued a computing device by the school district for their use 24/7. Those students who do not have internet access will receive paper copies of lessons and assignments. You can access the principals’ letter with more details about secondary learning plans here.
Today (Friday, April 10), all families with elementary students will receive a message from principals explaining their learning plans. At the elementary level, every student will receive his or her first week’s lessons and assignments in a package sent to them through the U.S. Mail. In subsequent weeks, we hope to send materials to many of our younger learners via the internet as well -- because we know an electronic delivery method will be more timely, less expensive, and kinder to our environment. If you do not receive the Friday message from your elementary principal, please look for it on our website in the section on learning plans.
I know you probably have lots of questions about this new way of “doing school.” I will devote the rest of this letter to providing answers to some of them -- at least the best answers we have at this time. I also want to remind you that you can send your questions to me at any time. If you are wondering about something, others are probably wondering as well.
I continue to appreciate the incredible grace and compassion so many of you have extended to our Ferndale School District employees during this challenging time. Like you, they are struggling with their own fears, frustrations, and family issues. At the same time, they are extremely dedicated to serving you and your children. So many staff members have shared how much they are missing your kids and how badly they feel about not being able to be with them. Please hug them for us and tell them we are thinking about them.
All my best,
Q: What are we going to do about holding a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020?
A: The high school principals and I are considering options. We have a telephone meeting on Friday, April 10 with a company that says they can facilitate a virtual ceremony which closely replicates our traditional in-person event with multiple speakers, a live-at-home audience, a moderated chat to cheer students on, music, and more. On April 13, we are holding a Zoom meeting with the elected student leaders of the Class of 2020 to get their input. Please know we are committed to creating a memorable event for our seniors, and we will keep you in the loop as we consider what that might be.
Q: What does the Governor’s announcement about canceling in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year mean for extracurricular athletics and activities?
A: Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), the organization that oversees athletics and activities in our state, published the following statement today (April 9):
The WIAA has received clarification that the order issued by Governor Inslee on Monday includes the cancellation of all in-person extracurricular athletics and activities through the end of the school year. This will include all regular season contests and practices as well as all postseason tournaments and championship events.
The decision was undoubtedly a difficult one for Governor Inslee. However, it was done so to keep the students and families in Washington safe. The WIAA Executive Board and WIAA Staff feel for those students around the state that have had their seasons or careers cut short. This terrible disease has not only prevented our students from creating lifelong memories through competition, it has limited the valuable lessons gained through participation is education-based athletics and activities.
The WIAA will continue to work with member schools around the state of Washington to navigate this unprecedented time. We have already seen some outstanding examples of athletic directors and coaches making the best of their situations and we know that work will continue.
Q: At the secondary level, what is going to happen with credits and course grades?
A: We know grading is a question on many people’s minds. For third quarter, we intend to issue students a Pass or No Credit rather than a letter grade. Since third quarter grades are essentially a formal progress report, and they are not posted on students’ permanent transcripts, this will not impact GPAs. Students will be awarded a Pass based on (1) the in-school work they completed between February 1 and March 16 (our last day of traditional school), and (2) the contact they have had with staff during the first phase of our continuous learning program (which was delivered to them by their advisory teacher). We are not making a final decision about grades for fourth quarter until we get more guidance from the state about the expectations of colleges and universities. Our commitment is to eliminate, or reduce to the greatest extent possible, any negative impact of this situation on our students’ futures.
Q: Can the school district do anything to help families who don’t have good internet access?
A: One way we can help is by sharing our district internet service. Each of our school buildings is essentially an internet hotspot. Any community member can access the district’s internet from the parking lot of one of our schools. If you decide to take advantage of this option, you should select the network called “FSDGuest,” which requires no password. If you choose to allow your student to access our internet, please know the internet itself is not filtered. If your students use the devices they were issued by the school district, those devices have filters installed which are more restrictive for middle school students than high school students. If your students use a personal device, rather than a school district device, they will have unfiltered internet access.
Q: How do I assist my child in coping with the stress caused by our current situation?
A: I have looked at a variety of resources to address this question. One that I have found to be most helpful was put together by the National Association of School Psychologists. You can access it at this link:
Governor Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced Monday, April 6, that school buildings will be closed for traditional, in-person learning throughout the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Updated April 8, 2020 to note distance learning continues while school buildings are closed.
Governor Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced today, April 6, that school buildings in Washington State will be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Distance learning will continue in the Ferndale School District while school buildings are closed.
Ferndale School District Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn says, “We are absolutely focused on supporting our students, families and staff right now. This announcement confirms what we had been hearing as a rumor thus far – we will not be returning to classrooms this year. The 2019-2020 school year will continue in a virtual format. Right now, we want all families to know that our staff are pushing forward with learning plans and on transitioning to this new way of instruction. Beginning April 13, new learning is planned at every level.”
The District is prioritizing plans for seniors who will need to complete credits in order to graduate. Ferndale School District Principal Jeremy Vincent says, “We are working closely with OSPI and the State Board of Education to make sure we come around each and every one of our students – especially our seniors. Our counselors have been hard at work since our schools closed to make contact with our senior class students and to track exactly what each of them need in order to graduate in June.”
The Ferndale School District has committed to five pillars during the school closure: 1) Nutrition Services; 2) Childcare for medical personnel and first responders; 3) Meaningful work, continued pay, benefits, and leave provisions for staff; 4) Learning plans for all students and 5) Graduation for seniors.
For current learning resources and information for all students, please see: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/learning-resources
Week of March 29 - April 4
Dear Ferndale Families,
As we begin our third week of the COVID-19 shutdown, I am very happy to report that we have made substantive progress in each of our focus areas during this school closure. As a reminder, those focus areas are (1) food service, (2) childcare, (3) student learning, (4) graduation for seniors, and (5) meaningful work for staff. All of the information and updates we have published during this school closure are available at www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19.
Lots of people have been wondering how long these new rhythms and routines are going to need to be in place before we can get back to “normal.” Although April 27 is still the official return-to-school date in Washington, I have heard several times that Governor Inslee will likely make a decision by April 10 about whether to extend the school closure beyond that date. Since I am always curious about what is going on in other states, I have been periodically checking a map created by the staff of Education Week and updated at least once a day. The map, which provides detailed state-level information about school closures, can be accessed at this address: https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html.
I want to share several newsworthy notes with you this evening.
Ferndale Record Story: You may have seen an article on the front page of the March 25 edition of the Ferndale Record under the headline Cases Reach Ferndale, Lynden. The subheading for the article reads “One a Lynden Manor resident, Ferndale’s a school district food worker.” THIS IS AN ERROR. None of our Ferndale food service workers have been diagnosed with Covid-19. The body of the story refers to the non-tribal employee of the LIBC that I wrote to you about on March 22. As soon as we saw it, we notified the Record of this mistake, and they corrected the online version. However, the print version still carries erroneous information.
Nutrition Services: Again today, we delivered meals to students. Our original plan -- which included using eight District pick-up sites -- has expanded. We are currently using four vans (in addition to buses) and supporting 36 locations. This is an amazing effort to get meals out. It also provides an infrastructure for delivering learning packets and picking up completed student work when we transition to the next phase of our learning plans.
Childcare Services: We launched our childcare program today at Cascadia Elementary School. Nurses were on hand to do a health screenings of children when they arrived. And trained YMCA employees provided the actual care. We believe we are serving all families who, at this point, want to avail themselves of this service.
Technology and Internet Needs: We are beginning to receive a few more inquiries about technology and internet access. At the secondary level, our goal is to make sure every student has a working device and, hopefully, internet access. If students do not have a device and internet access, they should be communicating this information to their advisory teachers, who will in turn pass it along to their building administrators. At the elementary level, it is not going to be as easy for us to come up with a device that every student can take home. We are still in the process of assessing the extent of the need through teachers’ contacts with their students. When we know exactly how big that need is, we will do what we can to address it. However, we will also assure that our tier one instruction at the elementary level can be accessed without technology. In other words we are providing -- and we will continue to provide -- hard copies of lessons, learning packets, and journals through our food distribution sites.
Here are the answers to a few questions we have received recently:
Q: How do I talk with my children about COVID-19?
A: The best thing that you can do for your children is to listen to their concerns and try to validate their feelings. The world may feel particularly unpredictable right now and kids, like adults, process those big feelings in different ways. Here is a link to a great article you might be able to use as background for your conversations:https://medium.com/waospi/talking-to-your-children-about-school-closures-aeb3e6be6456
Q: How is the Ferndale School District working to provide learning to students as directed by OSPI?
A: The Ferndale School District released information regarding learning plans to all families on Wednesday, March 25th. Those resources can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/learning-resources
Our current plans are a bridge and provide optional resources and support for families while we work to re-establish contact with every student and family in the District. Our teachers and staff are in the process of making these contacts.
We plan to begin delivering new content and instruction starting April 13 -- the week after our Spring Break.
Q: How are families responding to the learning plans so far?
A: We have, by necessity, turned our educational model inside out and upside down over the last two weeks. The result is something that works well for some – but not all. Our goal is to continue to refine our delivery model so that it works for more students and families. If you have questions and/or feedback as we work towards that goal, please reach out. I want to say a special thank you to our teachers and staff who have gone above-and-beyond to help us imagine a new way of reaching learners. This is a whole new world, and we are grateful for flexibility and creative ideas right now!
Q: What are you hoping District students will get out of these efforts?
A: Our priorities during this time have been (1) food service, (2) childcare, (3) student learning, (4) graduation for seniors, and (5) meaningful work for staff. We established these priorities based on directives from OSPI and the Governor, but they are really reflections of our District’s values as well. We are laser-focused on the physical and emotional safety of our students. During a time of tremendous upheaval and change, we are most concerned that they are safe physically and emotionally right now.
We intend that our next steps to deliver learning to students meet that standard as well. We want to reinforce concepts that have already been taught and support continued growth as we deliver new material. We are very sensitive to the fact that every family situation is different, and some of our students do not have the resources necessary to participate in online learning. We do not want those students to fall through the cracks. Therefore, we are working hard to make sure that our efforts are equitable.
Q: What challenges has the District run into thus far?
A: Equity is difficult in an online learning environment. While all of our secondary students have been assigned 1:1 devices, we know that not all of our elementary students have access to computers. We also know that those devices are only useful for online learning if there is an internet connection available. Internet access can make online learning inequitable given that some families are not connected to the internet. We are in the process of developing a survey to determine what technology gaps might exist for families.
Q: What challenges are you running into for your seniors with regards to their completing necessary requirements for graduation?
A: The guidance on this topic is evolving daily. We sent an email on March 25 to the families of senior students with updated information from the State Board of Education. The information that we sent can be found here:
From the State Board of Education:
The State Legislature passed a new law (EHB 2965) supporting the state's response to the novel coronavirus. This law includes a provision (see Section 10) that allows the State Board of Education to grant an emergency waiver to local education agencies (e.g., school districts, etc.) and private schools. The waiver will provide flexibility so individual students in the graduating Class of 2020 or earlier, who were on track to graduate, are not held back by school closures due to the novel coronavirus.
Under the emergency waiver program, public school districts, charter schools, and tribal compact schools will be able to apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver of certain high school graduation requirements. To get the waiver, schools and districts must demonstrate a good faith effort to address core course requirements and credit deficiencies (see OSPI Bulletin 022-20 for guidance on supporting seniors). In addition, the State Board of Education may waive credit-based graduation requirements and school day and instructional hour requirements for private schools.
The State Board of Education is working with partners to review different scenarios and considerations to ensure the program rules effectively support students, schools, and communities. The Board will hold a Special Meeting from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, to review the draft timeline and considerations for rulemaking. The Board expects to adopt emergency rules by the middle of April.
Please be assured that we will do everything we can to keep all of our high school students earning the credits necessary to move them toward earning a diploma and realizing their post-high-school plans.
That’s everything for this evening. Take care. My thoughts are always with you.
Week of March 22 - March 28
Dear Ferndale Families,
We have reached the end of our second week of COVID-19 shutdown. I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to our amazing Ferndale School District staff for coming together to figure out how we can become service providers in a whole new way. I am so proud to be part of this team. I especially want to thank our union leaders for their guidance, collaborative problem-solving, and unflappable dedication to making things work for their colleagues, students, families, and our community.
As we head into the weekend, I want to share a summary of where we are in Ferndale with fulfilling the Governor’s five priorities and pass along a few other random pieces of news.
Update on the Governor’s Five Priorities for School Districts
Nutrition Services: Today we completed our first full week of providing Grab ‘n’ Go meal packages to students. Nutrition Services is distributing food at drive-through and walk-up distribution sites throughout the district, as well as through a home delivery service to families who aren’t able to come to one of our distribution sites. Since the onset of the shut-down, 8,734 meals have been provided to our students! Distributing these meals has been a collaborative effort among several departments and labor groups within our district.
Childcare Services: Starting on Monday, March 30, Ferndale is partnering with the YMCA to open a childcare facility at Cascadia Elementary School. Hours of operation will be 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. YMCA already holds licenses for three facilities in our district. We will start our childcare services in one school, but we could potentially expand to another if we have the numbers to do so. In preparing to launch this childcare program in our district, we have been participating in the Countywide Childcare Emergency Response Coalition. This morning, our FSD nurses and other FSD support staff were trained on childcare screening protocols by nurses from the Bellingham School District. This work has been a very collaborative effort involving support from many of our district departments, as well as individuals throughout the county.
Learning Plans: The secondary instructional team worked to contact as many secondary students and/or parents as possible over the past three days. They distributed learning plans electronically to students and also posted the plans and our letter to parents on the district website. We have translated the parent letter into Spanish and posted that version as well. The Russian translation will be posted soon. Now we are working to translate the learning plans into both Spanish and Russian.
The members of the elementary instructional team have been using Skyward to send messages to their students’ families; and, in the process, they have identified which students are receiving those messages and which are not. They have also started gathering information about families’ needs and fielding questions related to implementing the learning plans sent out on Wednesday, March 25. Next week, staff will reach out to communicate with families on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These will be “whole group” communications, not individual calls/messages. There is currently NO expectation that teachers will be producing video. We need to provide more training and coordination before we implement this medium. During the weeks ahead, we plan to connect District grade-level teachers via Zoom to enable additional collaboration. Look for more information about this next week.
Support for Graduating Seniors: The Washington State Board of Education met on Thursday of this week (March 26) to discuss rulemaking with respect to graduation requirements for the class of 2020 and beyond. (They realize and intend to address the impact of this shutdown on high school underclassmen as well as seniors, all of whom need to be earning credits toward their diplomas.) As part of the State Board’s discussion, they talked about a credit waiver process and a timeline for this to occur. We anticipate new rules could be adopted as early as the second week of April containing fairly permissive language allowing our district the discretion to waive credits toward graduation for students who are “on track to graduate” as long as we are able to demonstrate a good faith effort to address core course requirements. We have put together a work group focused on high school credits and graduation.
Meaningful Work for All Staff: Each employee group has now been given clarification on what work they should be doing, where they should be doing it and to whom they should report that work. We are asking all employees who are not working onsite to check in daily with their supervisors (or their supervisor’s designee) so we continue to be in touch with one another.
A Few Questions and Answers:
Q: I have heard that teachers are reaching out to students. I have not heard from my student’s teacher. What do I do?
A: Our goal was to reach 100% of our students and/or families by today (March 27) with information about learning plans. However, we were not able to connect with everyone. In some cases, lack of technology and/or internet connectivity created barriers. In other cases, we encountered language barriers. Please know we are working to address these issues. Our goal is still to reach EVERY student. It’s just going to take us a little longer than we anticipated. If you have not heard from your student’s teacher, please feel free to reach us at email@example.com
Q: How is the Ferndale School District working to meet the needs of families?
A: Our Family and Community Coordinators are working to create a central database of the things our families need beyond food, so that we can relay these needs to the staff at the Whatcom Unified Emergency Management Center, so they in turn can share them with the appropriate community agencies and resources. At this time, our FCCs do not have the ability to provide the things that are being asked for (which includes everything from toilet paper to internet access), but they can help find someone who can.
Q: Is the Ferndale School District participating in Emergency Planning with partner agencies?
A: Yes. We are working in close partnership with emergency management agencies. Within the last few days we established a new relationship with the City of Ferndale whereby we have agreed to establish Ferndale High School as an emergency shelter, should such a space be needed. Among our facilities, we believe FHS can best accommodate quarantine, isolation, and health-related needs for our community. The logistics of such a site must include access for emergency vehicles, staff parking, resident parking, food preparation facilities, and restrooms/showers.
Q: What is the Ferndale School District doing to provide Special Education services during this shutdown?
A: Our Special Education Team is working hard to ensure evaluations, re-evaluations, and IEP deadlines are being met.
Take care of yourselves and those who are counting on you. I will be back in your email next week with updates and information.
Today I want to talk with you about student learning plans from this point forward. At the beginning of our school closure period, the guidance we received from the state was that schools would not provide new learning during the closure. That is changing. Yesterday we received the following guidance from the state (printed below in blue). I am sharing it with you today so that you know what to expect from this point forward:
1. School Districts should prepare an instructional model for the delivery of learning.
How that will look in the Ferndale School District:
Starting today, March 25, teachers will begin contacting students to check in this them and establish a virtual connection.
2. School Districts should plan to provide instruction using printed learning materials, phone contact, email, technology-based virtual instruction, or a combination to meet student needs.
How that will look in the Ferndale School District:
- Starting today, Wednesday, March 25, we will share learning materials and plans that will bridge the time between now and Spring Break (April 6-10). Material for both elementary and secondary levels can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/learning-resources
- After Spring Break, we plan to return to you with new learning materials for students at appropriate grade levels and subject matters. These materials will be delivered by your student’s teacher(s) and/or advisor. Please watch for additional information.
3. School Districts should operate with an April 27 return-to-school date in mind, but prepare for the possibility of a longer school closure period.
How this will look in the Ferndale School District:
We are still operating as if classes will resume on April 27 as originally announced by Governor Inslee. However, we are also getting early signals that this could be a longer shutdown. We want to prepare for instruction that will carry us through the remainder of this school year. If we are able to return before that time, we will celebrate together.
Although schools are closed and we are not providing traditional in-person instruction, education in Ferndale will continue in a new way.
I know everything is changing quickly. I know some of what we told you yesterday or last week is no longer true. However, there is one thing I can tell you will remain constant. The entire staff of the Ferndale School District is here to support you and your student as we work together in a new way.
Thank you for continuing to trust us with your children. We love and care for them, and we will look forward to the day when we can return to classrooms together.
All the best,
I don’t have a lot of specific information to share today. However, I want to let you know that I will be sending you a more detailed explanation of learning plans tomorrow. In addition, you and/or your students will be contacted by the end of the day on Friday by staff from their schools who want to take a few moments to check in and share details about learning expectations for the next few weeks.
To make sure we can reach you, please check your Skyward account and also ask secondary students to check their Outlook email. If your students do not have access to their Outlook email, rest assured their teachers will call you at the main telephone number your family has listed in Skyward.
Thank you for your patience as we have worked to figure out how to deliver educational opportunities in a whole new way. Although you have not yet seen the results of their efforts, our principals and teachers have been very busy developing a coordinated plan for reaching all students and their families with meaningful learning opportunities.
Tomorrow (March 25), virtual staff meetings are occurring for every one of our school teams. During these meetings, staff members will be finalizing their instructional plan through Spring Break. Following these meetings, they will begin reaching out to each of you.
Again, we appreciate your partnership as we navigate this unique situation.
I will send you another letter tomorrow evening. Take care of yourselves.
Dear Ferndale Families,
I started writing this email at noon today. I tuned into an hour-long webinar with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Reykdal at 2:00 pm. Then I watched Governor Inslee’s press conference at 5:30 pm. Each hour brings new information.
Tonight in his press conference, the Governor issued a stay-at-home order and mandated or encouraged the following:
- We must close more non-essential businesses and cancel all social gatherings, including weddings and funerals.
- We should not horde groceries or supplies, but buy only what we require for the week ahead.
- We need to minimize our physical connections but, at the same time, maximize our emotional connections.
Governor Inslee encouraged every Washingtonian to remain calm and compassionate and “fight through the storm with knuckles tight” (to quote Walt Whitman). He reminded us that this too shall pass.
As has become my practice in these communications, I am including answers to questions that we have received recently:
Q: Is the Ferndale School District still working to provide service in each of the categories previously outlined?
A: Although the State keeps tightening the rules about gatherings and social distancing, the five priorities the Governor outlined for us last week remain in place. As a public school system, we are still working to provide (1) nutrition services; (2) childcare services for children of essential workers; (3) learning work and instruction for all students; (4) opportunities for seniors to earn the credits they need to graduate; and (5) meaningful work for all employees so they can continue to be paid.
Q: Do you have any additional information regarding the last day of school?
A: Superintendent Reykdal said in a more definitive way today that June 19 will, in fact, be the final day of the 2019-2020 school year. He also suggested that we should all maintain maximum flexibility in planning for the start of school next fall (although I am unsure what that means).
Q: I heard that there has been a positive COVID-19 case in the Ferndale School District. Is that true?
A: Yesterday we learned of a positive COVID-19 case that is closer to our school district than any of those previously reported. I sent you all an email last night explaining that we had been notified that a non-tribal LIBC employee who provides services at Vista, Horizon, and Ferndale High School tested positive for COVID-19, which resulted in Lummi Behavioral Health contacting students who they believe had contact with this person during the past 14 days. I also let you know that the Whatcom County Health Department is aware of this situation and is not recommending further action at this time. Dr. Sterner, who heads up the Whatcom County Health Department, called me personally last night to reiterate this point. With that said, as the number of cases in our county grows, we all need to exercise more intensive precautionary measures.
Q: Will the Ferndale School District release additional information regarding the person who tested positive?
A: In response to the message I sent last night, I have received a number of emails asking the name of the person who tested positive -- which I was not given and which I would not be allowed to pass along if I had been given it. I have also received questions about notification to other potential contacts. Here is our response to these inquiries: We are taking our direction from the Health Department and Lummi Behavioral Health, who are charged with making contacts to those whom they believe have been exposed to the virus. For those who have not been contacted, our recommendation is the same as the Governor’s. Now that we are aware that the virus is active in our community, everyone should be behaving as if he/she may have been infected.
Q: Will food service for students continue?
A: Today we again successfully distributed meals to students. We followed the same plan as Friday with a few improvements based on what we learned from our first day. For instance, we have modified our plan for food preparation to include additional school kitchens, so we have even smaller numbers of staff working in the same space thereby further distancing workers from one another.
Q: What is the schedule for food service going forward?
A: As of this moment, we are planning to continue food service on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as previously announced.
Q: Is there a food service distribution site on Lummi Nation?
A: Students who live in the Lummi Nation are receiving meals from the Nation. The School District and LIBC are coordinating efforts to ensure everyone who needs this service is receiving it.
Q: Who should I call with questions about food service?
A: If a staff member or family has a question about food, they can call this number 360-383-9236.
Q: Will Special Education meeting continue during this shutdown?
A: Special education teams plan to continue to conduct initial evaluations, re-evaluations, and IEP meetings during the shutdown to the extent they can do so remotely. They will reach out to families to work out details.
I think that’s everything for today. My plan going forward is to write these letters to you on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays -- instead of every day. However, we know how plans go these days! If something important changes, I will be back tomorrow. Otherwise, you will hear from me on Wednesday, March 25, with more information about learning plans and childcare services.
Stay healthy and safe and hug your children for us. We miss them.
I am writing to you following a telephone meeting with staff from the Lummi Behavioral Health Department. We have been officially notified that a Non-Tribal LIBC employee who tested positive for COVID-19 is a service provider who works in our school buildings on a semi-regular basis.
Here is what I know:
- The service provider worked at Ferndale High School, Vista Middle School, and Horizon Middle School during the week of March 9-13.
- The service provider worked with individual students.
- Staff from Lummi Behavioral Health have contacted each student who is believed to have been in direct contact with this provider during the past 14 days.
The Whatcom County Department of Health is aware of this situation and is not recommending further action at this time. The reason we are contacting you tonight is to emphasize the need for precaution. We know that COVID-19 is in our community and, very likely, in our schools.
If you think you may have been exposed, follow these steps to monitor your health.
As a reminder, the symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Shortness of breath.
If you have these symptoms and need medical care:
- You should contact your doctor or healthcare provider.
- You may also contact the Washington State Department of Health at (800) 525-0127 and press #. The call center is open 6:00 am-10:00 pm seven days a week.
Now that we have verification that the virus is in our community, we must become even more diligent about taking steps to prevent its spread. Continue to follow these guidelines and encourage others to do so to protect against COVID-19:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Use a tissue or your elbow to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Throw used tissues in the trash and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Practice social distancing to avoid close contact with other people.
- Stay at home and away from others when you are sick.
- If at all possible, stay at home and away from others even if you don’t think you are sick. (Four out of five people with the virus contracted it from someone who did not know they were sick.)
We will continue to work with the Health Department and communicate with you any additional information or guidance.
As a reminder, we will also continue to provide information and updates here: www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19.
Please stay well and take care of the people you love.
All my best,
Week of March 15 - March 21
Dear Ferndale Families,
This is Day #4 of our COVID-19 shutdown and my sixth daily communication. At this moment, I am not planning to write to you again until Monday (March 23). However, if our current world view makes another major shift before Monday, you will find me back in your email box.
I want to start with good news: We implemented the first day of our food distribution plan today, and it ran well. Our Nutrition Team prepared 1500 meals, which were distributed widely from eight locations throughout the district including Ferndale High School, Central Elementary School, Horizon/Eagleridge Campus, Custer Elementary School, Skyline Elementary School, Cascadia Elementary School, North Bellingham Learning Center, and Beach Elementary School (which is a new site we added to the previously published distribution plan).
I want to give a big shout out to the dedicated food service workers, bus drivers, routers, dispatchers, paraeducators, administrators, and other staff who played a part in making this happen. You can access their story, along with a number of photos, on our website. Find that story here.
Here are responses to several more questions we have heard from you:
Q: What are the dates and times that meals will be distributed next week?
A: Our plan is that food service will continue in the same way it did today on Monday (March 23), Wednesday (March 25), and Friday (March 27) of next week. That means meals will be provided at the eight sites mentioned above from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm. You can find all of the details here.
Q: Is there any more news about childcare services?
A: We are moving forward with plans to begin offering childcare late next week. We want to thank those of you who completed our Childcare Survey. The results are assisting us in determining our space and staffing needs. Members of the Childcare Team are reaching out to make individual contact with each family who indicated they need this service. So if you receive a call from an unknown number, it may be one of our administrators following up on the survey you submitted.
Q: Is there a date when we can expect to receive learning work for our children?
A: Our plan to support learning remotely requires some special preparation of our website. We are doing that work now so we can begin pushing things out to families beginning Tuesday, March 24.
Q: When we do receive learning work from the district, will our children be required to complete it? Will it be graded?
A: No. Any learning work we offer to you will be intended as a service and your participation is voluntary. We want to support those of you who have asked us to provide materials to reinforce your students’ learning. We do not intend to require you teach new concepts. Rather, we hope the resources we provide will help you keep your students engaged and familiar with learning they have already covered in school.
Q: Are school buildings going to be open on Monday, March 23?
A: No. We decided we need to keep our buildings closed to most staff and all community members for one more day. That means, our buildings will now remain closed through Monday, March 23, to everyone except those employees who have been given explicit authorization to enter certain areas to perform certain essential functions. We hope to be able to provide limited building access beginning Tuesday, March 24.
Q: What will happen if our Governor puts in place an order for everyone to stay home, as has happened in New York and California?
A: We are staying in close communication with health experts and state officials. If the guidance from them changes, we will most likely need to change our plans. Our number one commitment to you is that we will communicate such changes as soon as we know what they are.
As I wrap up today’s letter, I want to share a touching poem about Coronavirus penned by Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland. It’s called “Lockdown.” Perhaps you’ve seen it. I thought it would be a fitting way to end Week One of our Covid-19 shutdown, so I have reprinted it below.
Have a safe and healthy weekend. I am proud to be a member of this wonderful Ferndale community.
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
the sky is no longer thick with fumes
but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
people are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
to how big we really are
to how little control we really have.
to what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
the birds are singing again,
the sky is clearing,
spring is coming,
and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Dear Ferndale Families,
This is Day #3 of our COVID-19 shutdown.
Yesterday, I told you that today I would report on the progress of the five work groups we have commissioned in the school district to address critical needs during these unprecedented times. Here is a brief summary from each group:
Nutrition services: The Child Nutrition Department is set to start distributing grab-and-go meals tomorrow, Friday, March 20, at the District’s Elementary Schools, North Bellingham Learning Center, and Ferndale High School. All Ferndale School District students are welcome to pick up meals at the location that is most convenient for them. (They don’t have to go to their regular school.) We will offer both drive-through and foot traffic pick-up. We have established a telephone hotline for those families who aren’t able to make it to one of the distribution centers. If you call this hotline number, we will do our best to deliver meals to you in more remote areas of our district. The hotline phone number is 360-383-9236. Yesterday, I shared our nutrition services distribution plan. You can access the plan here.
Childcare services: At this time the Ferndale School District is moving forward with plans to offer childcare at one of our elementary facilities for children of Health Care Workers and Emergency Responders. Beginning on Thursday, March 26, we expect to be open from 6:45 AM to 7:15 PM, Monday through Friday. Initially we will be able to serve children from 3-years-old through 5th grade. We will work hard to add grades 6 – 8 the following week. If you have not already done so, please help us with our planning by completing our childcare survey here. We will begin contacting families on Monday, March 23, to fill available slots. Check our website for information about other childcare providers. More information will be posted there as it becomes available.
Meaningful work, continued pay, benefits, and leave provisions for staff: The Meaningful Work Group is developing a plan that (1) protects the health and welfare of all workers using social distancing and remote work opportunities; (2) provides a variety of work opportunities that take into account an element of choice as well as equity between employees and groups; (3) recognizes that there are valuable opportunities for professional development and public service available and; (4) honors the priorities put forth by the state to serve the nutritional needs of our students, provide childcare for essential services, and maintain an educational program during our six-week school closure.
Learning plans: If parents need to focus on one thing, it’s caring for their families and taking care of themselves during this uncertain time. Our first priority is physical and emotional safety of all Ferndale families, then the opportunity for continued learning of our children!
Our goal in Teaching and Learning is to develop learning activities to enrich prior learning and engage students during the period of school closure. We are working with our teachers, principals, and members of our technology team to develop resources to support learning and reduce any loss of achievement. Implementing a required, district-wide online or digitally-based learning program is not feasible for our District. Although digitally-based learning is an innovative idea, it has many challenges in practice, specifically in the area of equity. Therefore, we are working to identify and build ways for teachers and students to stay connected around learning throughout this period of closure. In doing so, we will pay attention to the need for equitable access to educational services for all through a blended model. What this means is that, where possible, students and staff may connect digitally but we will always support student learning with hard copies as needed. Please know completing tasks from the activity calendars we will be sending home are optional but encouraged in order to maintain a healthy momentum in learning. Nothing will be graded. Do as much or as little as you wish and keep the communication ongoing between your family and the classroom teacher. We encourage you to reach out using the school email located on each school’s website if you have any questions. Skyward is another effective tool to maintain regular communication. We are a TEAM and a great one!
Communications: The Communications Work Group will continue to provide daily letters to staff and families through March 20. Beginning the week of March 23, we anticipate our updates will be published Monday, Wednesday, and Friday -- although this may change as the situation warrants. Our group is also (1) maintaining open communication channels with partners such as the City of Ferndale, other Whatcom County school districts, and the Lummi Nation; (2) reviewing and distributing guidance from the Health Department, Whatcom County Emergency Management, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State of Washington, and the Federal Government; (3) facilitating daily meetings with the District’s Administrative Team; and (4) keeping the website updated with relevant resources.
Those are the reports written by the leads from our five work groups. As I have been doing, I also want to share answers to some of the questions we have been receiving:
Q: I am feeling overwhelmed with the idea of homeschooling for my children. Should I be worried my kids are missing something?
A: No. You absolutely do not need to worry about homeschooling your kids right now. You and your families are handling a lot of change and upheaval. We do not want you to add an expectation for homeschooling. Right now, give yourself permission to take some time to do what gives you rest and comfort. Our team is working to assemble resources for families who want online support and/or other learning opportunities. Those resources will be voluntary and are not part of new learning or extended curriculum. Our main goals are to support your student’s prior learning and retention.
Q: Will state testing proceed as usual this year?
A: No. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has cancelled state testing (SBAC) for the 2019-20 school year.
Q: What about my senior? Will he or she still be able to earn the credits needed to graduate in June?
A: Everyone from the Governor level to your student’s classroom teacher is concerned about making sure seniors have the opportunity to meet graduation requirements and earn their diplomas by June. We have been told we can expect more guidance on this topic on Monday, but we feel confident telling you this is a top priority that will be addressed.
Q: Are we still planning to return to school on April 27?
A: That is still the directive coming from the state. At this point, you should plan that your children will return to school on April 27 as previously announced. We know there are rumors regarding an extension of that return date. They are only rumors at this point. We have been given no official direction to plan for closure beyond April 24.
Q: Is all of this time off going to be made up in the summer?
A: We don’t think so. Our State Superintendent of Public Instruction has talked about ending the school year on June 19 in all districts. Although that has not yet been made official, he said again in a statewide meeting this morning that it will be nearly impossible to make up all this time. Once an official proclamation has been made, we will let you know.
Q. Are school personnel still working during the school closure?
A: Yes. School personnel are working. Before this closure, all Ferndale School District personnel reported to physical worksites. Transitioning our entire workforce to remote work and limited in-person service is one of the tasks we are undertaking this week. However, we have been very clear that this school closure does not mean time off for employees unless, of course, they request vacation or sick time. All of our employees must be available for meaningful work during normal working hours beginning next week. This week, our administrators are making contact with all employees to communicate expectations and regular check-ins.
Q: Can you point me to resources for kids who are feeling stressed out about Coronavirus?
A: We are sharing a few online resources including videos for elementary-age students. This can be a scary time for kids, so we suggest trying to create space for them to ask questions and tell you how they are feeling. The links below will lead you to some sites that may be helpful in doing this:
Q: I am unable to travel to one of the food distribution sites. Is there a way I my family can get meals if we need them?
A: Our transportation staff will deliver meals to families who need them but may not be able to travel to one of our distribution sites. If you need meals delivered for your student, please call 360-383-9236.
That’s our list of responses to questions for today. If you have additional questions, please email them to your child’s principal.
You can expect to hear from me again tomorrow. Stay healthy and hug your kids for us. We miss them.
All my best,
Please Note: Included in this letter are links to additional information about Ferndale School District meal distributions, which will begin on Friday, March 20, as well as a school board decision regarding the levy.
Dear Ferndale Families,
This is Day #2 of our COVID-19 Shutdown:
I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy.
Our entire Administrative Team held its first Zoom meeting this morning. During the meeting, each of the five work groups reported on its progress. As a reminder, those five work groups are focused on (1) nutrition services; (2) childcare services; (3) meaningful work, pay, and benefits for staff; (4) learning plans; and (5) communications.
The Nutrition Services group is ready to begin implementing its plan on Friday, March 20. You can access the plan here.
I will have more to report from the other work groups in tomorrow’s email.
In other news:
- The School Board met last night via Zoom to talk about options for the levy. Ultimately, they decided to withdraw our levy measure from the April 28 ballot. I wrote you a separate letter earlier today about the reasons for their decision and its ramifications for the district’s planning for 2020-2021, which you can access here.
- I met with Mayor Greg Hansen and City Manager Jori Burnett today to touch bases and commit to coordinating our plans and efforts to the greatest extent possible. I want you to know that the working relationship between the School District and the City of Ferndale is strong, positive, and collaborative. We have the same overarching goal, which is to do everything we can to take care of the residents of the Ferndale community.
- We have been in communication with the Lummi Nation regarding their food service support plan. They are offering meals Monday through Friday through a combination of services ranging from pick-up to delivery. At this time, they do not need assistance from us, but we committed to staying in touch.
- I plan to participate in a state-wide meeting with additional guidance for schools tomorrow (March 19) at 8:30 am.
As I have been doing, I want to share with you responses to several of the questions we are being asked most frequently;
Q: Will Ferndale School District buildings be open during the closure?
A: All buildings in the Ferndale School District will be closed during the week of March 16-22 with limited exceptions related to preparation and distribution of food beginning Friday, March 20, and certain essential administrative functions in the District Office. If we are allowed, we will establish and publish consistent hours when our buildings will be accessible to staff and/or community next week, along with appropriate social distancing protocols. Look for more information about accessing buildings in my March 20 letter.
Q: When will Food Service begin providing meals and how can I access them?
A: Our food service deliveries will be operational by Friday, March 20. I have attached to this letter the details about when and where you can pick up meals.
Q: What should I be doing to homeschool my children?
A: You don’t need to be doing anything right now. Please take this item off your list of things causing you stress. We have absolutely no expectation that parents are taking over the role of the schools at this point. Rather, we want you to consider this week a second, unexpected Spring Break. Do those things you would normally do with your children on a school holiday. By the end of this week, we think we will be able to send you some guidelines for engaging them in some learning activities -- but you are absolutely not in this alone. We imagine you have enough to worry about right now. We also believe it is more important for your children to feel safe and loved than to worry about reading, writing, and math.
Our list of questions and answers is short today. You can expect to hear from me again tomorrow with more. In the meantime, please know we are thinking of you.
All my best,
Dear Ferndale Families,
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. As we head into a new normal, I want you to know that our staff cherished the chance to see students one last time yesterday before this closure.
And now we are working on what comes next. To that end, we met with our administrative team at 11:00 am today. (We met in the conference room at Mt. View, which is large enough for us to be able to practice appropriate social distancing protocols.)
When the administrators met, we broke up into five work groups to continue to make plans. Those five groups focused on (1) nutrition services; (2) childcare services; (3) meaningful work, pay, and benefits for staff; (4) learning plans; and (5) communications. Here is a brief summary of where we landed with each work group:
Nutrition services: We are finalizing a plan to begin delivering grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to students beginning Friday, March 20. We will provide more details about the distribution plan in tomorrow’s communication.
Childcare services: We are exploring our options for providing childcare services in the future. We will share more details by Friday of this week.
Meaningful work, continued pay, benefits, and leave provisions for staff: We know continued pay, benefits, and leave are top of mind issues for staff right now. We don’t yet have a great deal of guidance from the state. We will continue to work with our employee group leaders to figure out answers to all of their questions related to these topics.
Learning plans: Although during normal times, teaching and learning are our primary functions, this aspect of our planning is taking a little bit of a backseat to other more urgent concerns. The work group charged with this priority spent time today cataloguing resources, researching strategies being used by other districts, and exploring options. We will send our next update on this priority during the week of March 23.
Communications: We realize that regular communication is going to be key throughout this time that school is closed. To this end, administrators are going to hold regular Zoom meetings at 10:00. We are also going to continue to put out daily emails to our staff and our families.
As I have the last two days, I want to share with you responses to several of the questions we are being asked most frequently;
Q: Am I eligible for childcare through the school district? If so, how do I sign up?
A: We are still working on a plan for offering childcare services that meet the social distancing criteria established by the Governor. Getting information from you about your needs will help shape our plan. If you anticipate needing childcare services beyond what you already have in place during the school closure, please help us by completing our childcare survey here.
Q: How are staff staying in touch and moving forward with work during this time?
A: Administrators in the Ferndale School District met in person this morning and will begin on Wednesday, March 18, meeting by Zoom on a regular basis. Supervisors will be in contact with employees throughout this week and beyond as work assignments and schedules are determined.
Q: Will the school closure impact the levy proposal currently on the ballot for April 28?
A: The Ferndale School Board is considering that very question in a Board meeting this evening which is open to the public and will be held via Zoom. Information regarding how to join that meeting can be found here.
Q: What is happening with IEPs during the closure?
A: We are canceling and/or rescheduling IEPs that were originally on the calendar for this week, March 17-20. We anticipate we may be able to hold IEPs via Zoom during the weeks ahead. However, we are awaiting more guidance from the state.
Q: Will Ferndale School District buildings be open during the closure?
A: All buildings in the Ferndale School District will be closed during the week of March 16-20 with limited exceptions. One exception is that our food service operations will be using the kitchens in four school buildings. No other areas in those four schools will be open, and none of our other buildings will be open to staff or public through March 20. Another exception is that some transportation, maintenance, and custodial staff may be reporting to work at their supervisors’ requests. A final exception is that a limited number of personnel will be working in the district office this week. We plan to re-evaluate building usage beyond March 20 by Friday.
Q: How do I stay informed about COVID-19 and Ferndale School District’s response?
A: Please look for continued updates via email, phone call, and social media. We will also continue to update our Center for COVID-19 Information.
Q: When will Food Service begin providing meals?
A: Our goal is to have food service deliveries operational by Friday, March 20. We will send more details to you tomorrow or Thursday.
That’s our list of responses to questions for today. You can expect to hear from me again tomorrow.
Please let your children know we are thinking about them, and we will miss seeing them during the break. Take care as we navigate this uncertain time together.
All my best,
Dear Ferndale Families,
You probably saw or heard about the Governor’s press conference at 11:15 am today during which he announced new guidelines related to COVID-19. Here is my summary of what was communicated:
- The Governor has signed a statewide executive order shutting down restaurants, bars, recreational establishments, gyms, beauty salons, and other “non-essential” businesses for two weeks, and perhaps longer.
- The Governor said today that grocery stores and pharmacies may stay open.
- He also said school nutrition services and childcare will continue.
- He strongly recommended a two-week period of self-isolation should be imposed by everyone who is able, although he was not particularly clear about how that aligns with keeping school nutrition and childcare services open in schools.
- He prohibited meetings of over 50 and called for clear social distancing protocols for smaller meetings.
- He reminded Washington citizens that today we are focused on the response to COVID-19; but, in the coming weeks, we must also focus on the recovery.
- He asked that citizens continue to patronize restaurants offering takeout and contribute to the arts. He called on us to play a part in supporting the community to the extent we are able.
As the situation continues to evolve, I am sure you have additional questions. I appreciate those of you who are sharing those questions with us, as it lets us know what additional information you need. Here are the inquiries we have received most recently, along with today’s best answers. (We are all getting used to the fact that tomorrow is a new day, which could bring additional rules or different guidance.)
Q: Given the Governor’s updated announcement regarding social distancing, how does the District plan to provide previously announced services including food service and childcare?
A: We are still trying to figure out how we can meet the four priorities we previously shared (nutrition services, childcare services, resources and expectations for staff, and learning plans) at the same time that we are meeting new requirements for social distancing. We are researching what other districts are doing. We are consulting with experts. And we are meeting with union leaders and district administrators tomorrow to engage them in making plans. We will keep you posted.
Q: Will staff report to work during the week of March 16?
A: In light of the Governor’s latest information, we have made the decision that we will not be asking some staff to come to work during the week of March 16. Administrators and other employees essential to this response effort will be expected to work. We will be in contact with those who fit that description. (Again, our meetings tomorrow are aimed at figuring out who needs to come in and how we can make sure they do so safely.)
Q: When might childcare and special education services be available?
A: Regarding plans for providing childcare and special education services, we are awaiting guidance from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which we expect to receive on Wednesday of this week (March 18). We will let you know as soon as we do.
Q: If I need childcare, how do I communicate that to the Ferndale School District?
A: The District has developed a survey to assess community needs in this area. If you need childcare, please complete our form so we can consider you as we plan. The form can be accessed here.
Q: My child received some assignments from his or her teacher(s) today, but I understood distance learning plans would not be in place until later. Is the work my child received today required?
A: Please know how much our teachers care about students and their learning. Even though we tried to communicate to staff on Friday that they were not expected to spend their weekend putting together learning work to send home today, some of them did so anyway -- out of an abundance of care for your child. Any assignments your student may have received today (Monday, March 16) were provided as a service by caring teachers. We do not intend them to be one more cause for stress in your family. Students will not be penalized if the work is not done at this time. In the future, we may be providing your child with schoolwork that we do expect him or her to complete, especially at the high school level where earning credits toward graduation is a significant consideration.
Q: My student is a senior in high school this year. What plans are being made to ensure seniors are not negatively impacted by this school closure?
A: Taking care of seniors is one of our highest priorities and also one of the highest priorities of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. We will be working with the State to figure out how seniors can finish the school year and earn the credits they need to earn their diplomas. We are committed to doing everything we can to keep this emergency from impacting graduation or post-high-school plans.
Q: If I have an urgent school-related inquiry during the closure, who do I contact?
A: Since we aren’t sure yet when our school offices will reopen, we have set up an emergency phone line for this purpose. The number is 360-305-3045. We will work to ensure someone gets back to you within 12 hours.
Q: When can we expect to hear from the District again?
A: As I mentioned in my memo yesterday, we will continue to provide you with a daily update through the end of this week. As quickly as information is changing, we feel this is the only way to keep you abreast of the latest developments. Please know you can also email me directly if you have a question we haven’t yet answered. If I don’t get back to you personally, I will include your question in my next update.
Take care of yourselves and one another during these crazy times. Thank you for being such good partners. I will write to you again tomorrow.
Dear Ferndale Families,
We are writing to you today to answer questions and provide you the information you will need to navigate during an unprecedented six-week school closure in Ferndale and across the State of Washington.
Before I launch into some of the questions and answers, I just want to tell you how sorry I am that this is happening, especially since I know the negative impacts our situation is having on many of you. Our goals as a district include the following:
1. Protecting the health and safety of our students and staff by following closely the guidance of the Health Department and other experts.
2. Continuing to the best of our ability to provide services to the families and community that count on us.
3. Coming together to become the strongest, most positive team we possibly can in order to meet the challenges we currently face.
Here are answers to some of the questions we have been hearing:
Q: Why is the Ferndale School District open on Monday, March 16?
A: The District made this decision in consultation with the Whatcom County Health Department. The Department recommended that we close schools starting Tuesday March 17 as a preventative measure. It is important to note that the closure was not recommended in response to positive cases in the Ferndale School District.
Our planned closure aligns with Governor Inslee’s Executive Order for all schools in Washington State. Holding school on Monday, March 16, will give students a chance to say good-bye to friends and teachers and gather belongings, medicine and other materials they may need during the closure. It will also give families one more day for making their own plans.
Q: Can I choose to keep my student home on Monday, March 16?
A: Yes. Student absences will be excused on Monday, March 16. We want families to choose what is best for their individual circumstances. As always, if your students are feeling sick, please keep them home.
Q: Will my student receive assignments or learning materials to work on during the closure?
A: No. This closure happened quickly, and teachers have not had adequate time to prepare material for a six-week absence. We will follow up with information and resources for your student while they are away from school.
Q: What does the school closure mean for athletics and activities?
A: When school is closed, we also suspend all school sponsored extracurricular activities. If this policy changes in the future, we will let you know. However, we do not expect any changes during the upcoming week.
Q: When will the Ferndale School District communicate next?
A: We are committing to sending daily updates starting Sunday, March 15 through Friday, March 20. Our goal next week will be to share information and updates as we make decisions about food service, childcare and available resources to support student learning. After March 20, we will send updates whenever we have additional information to share.
Q: When can we expect services like childcare and food service to begin?
A: Our first priority is food service. We expect to have food service available no later than Monday, March 23 -- and earlier than that if at all possible. We also expect to be able to start providing childcare services sometime during the week of March 23.
Q: I will need childcare during the school closure. How can I communicate that to the School District?
A: The District plans to send a separate childcare survey to families tomorrow (March 16) to measure community needs for childcare. This information will help the District plan for staffing and facilities.
Q: Where should I go for additional information now and throughout the closure period?
A: The Ferndale School District is regularly updating our website with information and resources. We will continue to update information: www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19
Thank you in advance for your flexibility and patience. We are committed to serving you during these unprecedented times. As always, feel free to reach out with your questions or suggestions.
Week of March 8 - March 14
The following is (1) a media release regarding school closure announcement followed by (2) a letter sent from Ferndale School District Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn to families.
Whatcom County public schools to close no later than March 17 through April 24 due to COVID-19
(Governor Inslee has now mandated that all K-12 Schools in Washington close. The Ferndale School District had planned to announce closure which is communicated below.)
Ferndale, WA. In coordination with the Whatcom County Health Department, Whatcom County superintendents have decided to close public school districts in Whatcom County no later than Tuesday, March 17 through at least Friday, April 24. The Ferndale School District will be open March 16. As a reminder, when school is cancelled, all athletics and activities are cancelled.
This decision followed an announcement yesterday from Washington state Governor Jay Inslee (video link / statement) to close school districts in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties from March 17 through April 24. Governor Inslee also said other closures may follow in other parts of the state.
Our local superintendents, following advice from local health officials, decided to close schools to be proactive. Lynden, Mount Baker, Nooksack Valley, Ferndale, Bellingham, Blaine and Meridian school districts will be closed beginning no later than next Tuesday, March 17 through at least April 24, 2020.
Whatcom County public schools know that the past few weeks have been stressful for many in our communities because of the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. We are grateful to all our staff and families for navigating this situation alongside our school districts.
Each district will use their typical lines of communication to inform families and community of plans for Monday and beyond.
We expect to receive further guidance from state officials regarding this decision in the coming days and will provide updates as soon as we are able.
We want to assure the community that this is not a decision we have made lightly or without considerable thought and consideration. As superintendents, we regularly make challenging decisions and this has been the most difficult in any of our careers. We recognize and understand the impact this will have on our families, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
As Governor Inslee and Superintendent Reykdal charged school districts to do, we are working on learning plans, childcare, and nutritional services. Additional information will be coming to each school district’s staff and families in the coming days. We will share this information via email, as well as posting on school websites and social media channels as applicable.
Letter to Families
I have been using this phrase a lot lately: “These are unprecedented times.”
Rising to the occasion in a time of public health concern sometimes requires bold action. That is what I am announcing to you today.
The Whatcom County Health Department has recommended that all schools in Whatcom County close no later than Tuesday, March 17, and extending through Friday, April 24. The Ferndale School District will be open on Monday, March 16. As a reminder, when school is cancelled, all athletics and activities are also cancelled. The recommendation is not a response to specific cases in Ferndale. The recommendation has been made because closing schools now will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Although children are not likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, they can spread it to others who are at high risk.
Although our schools will not operate normally for the next six weeks, we are committed to finding meaningful ways to serve our students, staff, and community during this closure. Consistent with what the Governor asked of us yesterday, we will be developing plans in four areas:
1. Food Service. We will continue to offer food service to students and families who need this assistance. We will announce a start date for this service next week.
2. Childcare. When Governor Inslee announced closures in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties, he also asked that schools take responsibility for providing childcare services, at a minimum, for first-responders, healthcare workers, and other essential service personnel. We agree that this is a community obligation, and we are working to put together a plan to provide childcare in Ferndale while our schools are closed. We will announce a start date for this service next week.
3. Resources and Expectations for Staff. We are working hard to answer questions related to leave, pay, and work assignments during the time we are closed. We will share information as we have it regarding expectations for staff during closure.
4. Learning Plans. We do not want our students to go home for six weeks without guidance or resources. We will be meeting with staff next week to come up with a plan for how we continue to reach our students during this time. We will make further announcements after we have time for planning next week.
Thank you for your patience and grace in this uncharted territory known as COVID19. You can continue to expect regular updates from me.
All My Best,
Ferndale School District
March 11, 2020
Dear Ferndale Families and Staff,
I am reaching out today to share the latest information regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) as it relates to our schools.
This morning Governor Jay Inslee’s provided a briefing on COVID-19, which included guidance on ways to slow the spread of this virus. One of those ways is to take steps to reduce social interactions.
The Governor and the Health Department are asking our Whatcom County schools to stay open for now. However, they are also asking all school districts to begin contingency planning, which we have already been doing and will continue to do. Please know we are readying ourselves for the possibility of closing school in the future.
Schools serve several important functions in our community. In addition to educating students, they are key to meeting basic needs like nutrition and care for many young people. We know many families count on us to keep their children safe during the day so they can report to their jobs. We also know a number of our parents work as healthcare professionals. We do not want our parents to have to choose between reporting to their jobs -- especially those who are critical to the healthcare system -- or caring for their children. Our bottom line is this: We want to provide as much support to families as possible at the same time that we are doing everything we can to keep our staff and students safe.
Here are the actions we are already taking:
- We continue to refine our contingency plans for the possibility that we will need to close our schools in the future.
- We have updated our directives for increasing social distancing, which will result in canceling a number of non-essential meetings and events in our schools. (See below the agreements about this topic made by the seven Whatcom County Public School District Superintendents in a face-to-face meeting this afternoon.*)
- We continue to encourage staff and students to stay home when they are sick.
- We continue to take extra care in our schools and workplaces to follow the CDC’s best advice for cleaning, hand washing, and other personal hygiene.
*Guidelines for Non-Essential Meeting and Events in Our Schools
Effective Thursday, March 12, through Sunday, April 12
Governor Jay Inslee has asked all businesses and school districts to reconsider large gatherings and encourage social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. In response, the seven Whatcom County Public School District Superintendents decided the following:
We will cancel or postpone:
- Large gatherings outside of school hours that include both adults and students, such as concerts and guest speakers.
- Large gatherings during school hours, such as assemblies.
- In-door athletic contests.
- Out-of-state travel for student groups (strongly advised).
We will continue with the following types of events, unless the organizing group or hosting school chooses to cancel or postpone:
- Small gatherings of staff, such as staff, grade level, and department meetings. (When possible, we encourage moving adult meetings online.)
- Small school-based gatherings that primarily include students and staff, such as after-school activities and clubs and YMCA child care.
- Typical local field trips, such as fifth grade camp and academic competitions.
- Athletic practices and outdoor contests, unless the organizing group or hosting school chooses to cancel or postpone. Large competitions, games, matches, meets, and contests may be affected.
We support our families’ ability to make the choices they feel are best for them and their children. We appreciate your grace and patience as we navigate these difficult decisions together.
You have undoubtedly heard about school district closures in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, where there are more confirmed cases. You have probably also heard about cancellations of in-person classes at local higher education institutions like Western Washington University and Bellingham Technical College. Please remember that our context in the Ferndale School District is different. The kinds of measures colleges can implement will not easily work with preK-12 students. I want to repeat that, at this time, the Governor and the Health Department are still asking us to remain open to serve our families.
You can find updates to our COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions page for families and staff, which includes responses to inquiries such as:
- Q: Do any Ferndale students or staff have the Novel Coronavirus-(COVID-19)?
- A: At this time, no students or staff are known to have the coronavirus.
- Q: How is the Ferndale School District preparing for the possibility of the widespread illness?
- A: We are developing contingency plans so we are ready to respond if widespread illness causes greater impacts. These plans include responses to significant staff absences, school closures, or other circumstances that affect our ability to operate school as usual. We are hopeful that we will not have to operationalize these plans, but it is critical to be prepared.
- Q: Will Ferndale School District cancel school?
- A: We follow guidance from the Whatcom County Department of Health and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) on school closures. We currently have no schools where a case of COVID-19 has been identified. If that changes and health authorities recommend a school closure, we will follow that guidance.
Please make sure you are taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Governor Inslee reminded us this morning that we are all leaders who can take individual steps to help each other. I thank those of you who have taken the time to share suggestions and messages of support. They are much appreciated.
Linda Quinn, Superintendent
Ferndale School District
March 9, 2020
Dear Ferndale Families and Staff,
I am reaching out to update you regarding the Coronavirus situation, which remains a major topic of conversation and concern in our state, nation, and world. Our District leaders have been monitoring developments across our state to determine appropriate next steps for the Ferndale School District.
I want to assure you that we are making informed decisions for our schools, and we are continuing to update our website with the most current facts, data, and guidance from the experts. Over the weekend, we added more information about school activities and field trips, e-learning, and the possibility of school closures. You can access that information here.
Currently, the Whatcom County Health Department, Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control are not recommending school closures, as long as we are able to maintain appropriate supervision and adequate services. We will continue to collaborate with these health organizations, because the safety of our students, staff, and families remains our top priority.
You may hear that health authorities are recommending people avoid groups of more than 50 people, yet they are not advising school closures in general. This guidance may seem confusing because schools bring together large groups of children. However, in the case of schools, health authorities note that closures have significant negative impacts on communities, such as:
- Closing schools may not be effective because some children may congregate anyway at other locations.
- Many parents, such as healthcare workers, need to be report to their jobs. If these critical workers stay home with children, the impacts on the healthcare system and other institutions essential for our community may be significant.
- If schools close, some children may have to stay home with alternative caregivers, such as elders, who are more vulnerable to the virus.
- Some children count on our schools to provide them with healthy meals.
We are still considering whether to cancel afterschool activities and events. In consulting with other Whatcom County School Districts, we have learned that wholesale cancelations are not occurring. Rather, instances are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
We have received several phone calls about possible connections to a person with Coronavirus. We share each of these reports with the Health Department so they can investigate and provide us with guidance. At this time, there still have been no positive Coronavirus cases reported in Whatcom County.
At the same time, we know that some children and staff may be at higher risk for severe illness because of underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems. The Washington State Department of Health advises that those people consult with their healthcare provider to decide the best course of action.
I thank those of you who have reached out with messages of support and care for our hardworking staff. As always, please feel to contact us if you have additional questions or suggestions.
If anything should change, we will communicate with you in the same manner we do for inclement weather. Please take a moment to make sure you have updated your family’s communication preferences in Skyward Family Access. If you do not have your current login, please contact your student’s school to update information.
All my best during these challenging times,
Linda Quinn, Superintendent
Ferndale School District
Week of March 1 - March 7
March 3, 2020
Dear Ferndale Families and Staff,
When I wrote to you yesterday (March 2) about the Coronavirus, I shared that several of our staff members would be attending a special county-wide Health Department briefing, and that I expected they would return with news about updated plans and protocols. Here is the information they brought back from the briefing:
How is the Coronavirus spread?
The virus is most commonly spread person-to-person via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be inhaled and infect the receiving person, similar to the way flu and other respiratory illnesses are spread.
Who should seek medical evaluation for Coronavirus?
Students, staff, and volunteers:
- Who are ill with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing AND who have traveled from China within the last 14 days.
- Who are ill with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing AND who have been identified by the public health officials as a recent close contact of a confirmed Coronavirus case or had recent close contact with someone who is being evaluated for Coronavirus infection.
What are preventative measures individuals can take?
- Stay home when sick.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after eating, and after blowing one’s nose. ·
- Avoid touching mouth, nose, and eyes when hands are dirty or unwashed.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then immediately discard the tissue and wash hands.
What are preventative measures the School District can take?
- Share “Preventative Measures for Individuals” with all members of the school community.
- Maintain open and regular lines of communication with appropriate government agencies and officials -- and follow their guidance.
- Maintain a rigorous sanitation plan for classrooms, schools, and school buses that includes regular disinfecting of major surfaces.
- Create a plan for the District and/or individual school(s) in the event of a major Coronavirus event. If such an event does occur, the District will make all decisions about closing schools in consultation with the Health Department. Information will then be communicated to students, parents/guardians, and others via the District website, social media channels, and all-call system.
Where can I get the most up-to-date information?
Consult the following websites for further information:
In the Ferndale School District, we are taking this concern very seriously. We will continue to keep you updated, keep our schools sanitized, and make the best decisions possible in collaboration with the Whatcom County Health Department.
As always, feel free to reach out if you have questions we have not answered.
Linda Quinn, Superintendent
Ferndale School District
March 2, 2020
Dear Ferndale Families and Staff,
When I wrote to you last Friday (February 28) about the Coronavirus, I indicated that the situation was evolving and likely to change. Within hours of sending that message, we received news of the first confirmed cases in Washington State. Since then, more cases have been diagnosed or suspected, but none yet in Whatcom County.
Please know we are coordinating with the Whatcom County Health Department and Whatcom Emergency Management as we craft plans to address the Coronavirus in the Ferndale School District. Now, as in past situations involving communicable diseases, our practice is to follow all recommendations and guidance from these expert partners.
Several members of our staff are attending a special Health Department briefing this afternoon (March 2), and I expect they may have updated plans and protocols by tomorrow. As this situation evolves, we will continue to communicate with our staff, families, and community.
We encourage students and staff to stay home if they are not feeling well. As always, the best way to minimize the spread of any communicable disease is to wash hands regularly with soap and water.
We have updated our district webpage with links to resources that answer commonly asked questions regarding the Coronavirus and related health protocols. You can find that information at https://www.ferndalesd.org/. Another one of our partners, Northwest Educational Service District 189, which provides services to 35 school districts in our region, has also created a webpage with information and links about the ongoing Coronavirus situation.
Our goal is to provide you with as much information as we can as soon as we have it. Feel free to reach out if you have questions we have not answered.
Linda Quinn, Superintendent
Ferndale School District
Week of February 23 - February 29
February 28, 2020
Dear Ferndale Families and Staff,
Over the past several weeks, we have seen increasing news coverage about the evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation around the world. Understandably, we have received questions from staff and families regarding the potential impact to Ferndale schools.
First, I want you to know that we have been receiving regular updates from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Educational Service District 189 regarding response to a potential exposure to the Coronavirus. These state agencies have done a great job of coordinating with federal agencies to share information as it has become available.
Currently, the Washington State Department of Health reports the risk of exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19) is low. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spreading in Washington State at this time, according to a report you can access at this address: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus. To date, there have been no reports of persons affected with the Coronavirus in Whatcom County.
As with any emerging communicable disease, we know this situation may change. For that reason, we are committed to staying in close communication with Health Department experts and following all of their recommendations.
I want to state directly that the risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has no connection to race, ethnicity, or nationality. Perpetuating stigmas is inappropriate. Furthermore, it will do nothing to help our current situation. Staying informed is the most effective course of action at this time.
Everyday precautions -- like diligent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, remaining home if feeling ill, and staying up-to-date with immunizations -- will help keep our community healthy.
I want to reiterate that we have not had any major Coronavirus related impacts in our schools. We are, however, taking this situation very seriously. Please be assured we are committed to staying informed, communicating with you as the situation progresses, and doing everything we can to keep our kids healthy and safe.
We have updated our webpage with links to resources that answer commonly asked questions regarding the Coronavirus and related health protocols. You can find that information at https://www.ferndalesd.org/
Linda Quinn, Superintendent
Ferndale School District
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