Northwest Educational Service District 189 is distributing thousands of items of personal protective equipment to local school districts.

The Northwest Education Service District, which serves 35 school districts in Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties, is one of nine ESDs in the state that have been working to provide resources — physically and remotely — to school districts as they adapt to online learning.

Also, the ESDs have been using their combined purchasing power to allow school districts to place orders for personal protective equipment at a lower cost, said Jessica Haag, spokesperson with the local ESD.

In a second round of purchasing, the state Department of Emergency Services offered certain items for free, meaning districts that had already ordered those items no longer had to pay for them, Haag said.

The supplies include thousands of masks — both cloth and medical-grade KN95 — gloves, gowns and face shields, Haag said. Stanwood-Camano schools are receiving surgical gowns and nitrile gloves.

Hagg said the local ESD is hoping to get the more than 30 pallets of gear distributed by Christmas, just in time for another shipment to be delivered.

The shipments supplement the series of purchases already made by the Stanwood-Camano District that include, disposable masks, hand sanitizer, face shields, digital thermometers, UV sanitizers, desk shields and more.

School Board meets

The Stanwood-Camano School Board met Dec. 15 to approve its consent agenda and hear reports on budgets and enrollment.

As of December, the district's student enrollment was at 4,418, down about 200 from a year ago. The decline is largely related to the COVID-19 pandemic as some parents have opted to homeschool their children or move out of the area, district officials said.

After the meeting, the board met for a study session to discuss the budget ahead of the upcoming Washington state Legislative session and to hear an update on student engagement so far this school year. 

District principals presented data on remote learning and hybrid learning in 2020, showing in part that attendance at elementary schools so far is higher than last year — from about 95% in 2019-20 to 98% in 2020-21.

"We still have pockets and spots of kids who are struggling," Elger Bay principal Victor Hanzeli said of remote and hybrid learning plans. "But it has settled into a very good model." 

Port Susan Middle School principal Charae Almanza told the board remote learning has enabled teachers to more quickly reach out to students who have not completed assignments.

"Then we can go onto the next layer of support," she said.

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