Dear Highline Families,
Last Friday afternoon, I announced that Highline would continue in distance learning through first semester, which ends January 28. I recognize that some districts in our region are beginning to reopen for students in small groups. I want to share in more detail how the school board and I came to our decision.
First and foremost, the safety of our students and staff is paramount. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has set a threshold for when schools can consider reopening buildings. That threshold is fewer than 75 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents in a 14-day period. While some areas of King County have met that threshold, many districts--including Highline—have not. (See the King County COVID Activity Dashboard.)
In the coming weeks our COVID activity rates are likely to go up, not down because of the following::
- Health authorities are predicting a winter surge of COVID infections.
- After a period of declining COVID infection rates, infections are trending up again, locally and nationally.
- With the change in weather, people will be spending more time indoors where transmission of the virus is more likely.
We do not want to transition to hybrid learning, only to have to close buildings again due to infections.
I know how hard teachers and staff have worked to get students oriented to distance learning. Now, we can now focus our energy and attention on making distance learning more effective for students and finding safe ways to provide support to students who need it.
Like other districts in our region, we will, however, begin to serve students with specific special needs in person before the end of the semester. Many are not able to engage in online learning due to the nature of their disabilities. We can make an exception with this small number of students because we will have only a few students in each classroom and we will have specialized PPE for staff based on state guidelines.
We will continue to plan for the return of all students to hybrid learning using the DOH decision-making guidelines. I cannot promise today we will begin at the beginning of second semester. What I can promise is that it will be when COVID activity rates are at an acceptable level.
I know the decision to remain in distance learning will be difficult for some of our students and families, like everything else about this pandemic. If your student needs support academically or emotionally, please connect with your school for support.
I look forward to the day when we can welcome our students and staff back to our buildings. Until then, please stay safe, healthy and strong and remember that we will get through this together, because together we are Highline.
Susan Enfield, Ed.D. | Superintendent | Highline Public Schools
Office: 206-631-3070 | firstname.lastname@example.org