NOT THE NEWS WE HOPED TO HEAR
The question hanging over our heads all summer – will school begin in person or remotely – was answered this week when the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department nixed any possibility of schools opening in person.
All of the county’s K-12 schools – public and private – are now required to start in distance learning mode because of high rates of transmission of the coronavirus.
This decision is based on state Department of Health criteria, under which Pierce County’s transmission rate is considered “high.” The state “strongly recommends” distance learning in such cases – a recommendation the county health department is interpreting as a requirement.
Although it can seem like we have no control over such decisions, we can play a role in getting kids back into the classroom ASAP.
We urge our families to follow community safety guidelines as closely as possible by washing frequently, wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing and sticking close to home.
We were optimistic when the week began that the county’s high transmission rate might – just might – decline enough to allow us to return to classroom instruction when school starts Sept. 2. We were waiting until the last practical moment to make the call, but then the health department made it for us.
Many public school districts made an early decision to start in distance learning mode, but as a small private school, we have some safety advantages we had hoped would allow us to open as scheduled.
Our two campuses have large classrooms but small class sizes that can easily accommodate social distancing. And each classroom has a separate entrance and a separate bathroom with no crowded hallways to navigate – all the better to keep students in cohorts so that only one class would be affected if someone tested positive.
We understand the questions – and frustration – surrounding the decision, but the health department is acting in what it believes to be the best interest of students, staff and families.
The good news is that we worked just as hard this summer to develop a Seabury-style distance leaning program – child-centered and inquiry-based – as we did to prepare for classroom instruction. We will share more about it during a town hall meeting at 4 p.m. Aug. 20 on Zoom.
We look forward to welcoming students to our two campuses as soon as state guidelines allow. We all hope that is sooner rather than later. In the meantime, keep washing those hands!