A letter to families from Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn sent Friday, March 27, 2020 with a school closure information update. This update is also available at www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19 along with past updates and additional resources.
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.