The Blaine school district officially announced it would start the 2020-21 school year with a hybrid plan that splits students into two groups that switch between in-person and remote classes on a weekly basis.
The decision came in a July 8 video announcement from superintendent Christopher Granger following a preliminary announcement on June 17 and nearly two months of planning from the school district.
“As we have planned for the necessary changes in education that must take place in this pandemic, the health and safety of our students, staff, families and community has been at the core of our decision making process,” Granger said in the superintendent’s video message released on July 8.
Students are expected to start on August 26 but Granger emphasized that the tentative plan could change at a moment’s notice depending on the number of Covid-19 cases in Whatcom County.
The district prioritized keeping households on the same hybrid class schedule, Granger said in a July 13 webinar on the upcoming school year. Switching groups is a complicated process that requires assessing multiple areas of the hybrid model including meals, class capacity and transportation.
Classes will have 15 students or fewer to maintain space for physical distancing in the classrooms. In-person classes will happen Monday through Thursday from 8:20 a.m. to 12:20 p.m., with two hours of remote learning in the afternoon, and online classes every Friday.
In a survey that will be available from Monday, July 27 to Thursday, July 30, families will need to choose if their children will be participating in the hybrid model. They can instead sign up for online-only learning. Families who do not complete the survey will be placed in the hybrid model, according to a July 8 email. Students in online learning will stay with the same teacher through the school year to allow an easy transition if school resumes as normal.
In December, a request system will open if online students wish to transfer to the hybrid model on January 25, at the start of the second semester.
Granger said the current plan is only an outline and more information will be available in the coming weeks about Internet connections, fall sports and music classes, among other things. During the July 13 meeting, Granger said he anticipates fall sports but does not have information on what those will be or when they will take place.
The district needs to reach 180 school days during the upcoming school year – the same number as previous school years – according to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
Granger made it clear that face coverings and physical distancing will be required, although he is looking to see if six feet of space could be shortened to three after the American Academy of Pediatrics released a guidance on fall school openings that said three feet could be a sufficient distance with face coverings.
The school district has reviewed guidance from governor Jay Inslee’s office, the Washington OSPI, and the Whatcom County and Washington state departments of health, along with community interest groups, Granger said.
Speaking at a community Zoom meeting hosted by fire chief Christopher Carleton on July 16, Carleton said that all Point Roberts students attending the Blaine campus would be on the same hybrid class schedule. As well, every student in the district will receive a Google Chromebook for use in their studies.
This article was originally published on July 16 on the All Point Bulletin's website.