We are pleased to welcome returning and new families this very different and unprecedented school year.

The Stanwood-Camano School District will begin the year Sept. 3 mostly online in Distance Learning 2.0 out of concern for the safety of the community.

Our four-step reopening plan for learning will be determined by the impacts of a changing COVID-19 pandemic, available resources, direction from the Snohomish Health District, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Gov. Jay Inslee. Districts such as ours must be able to adapt and move quickly from distance learning to a hybrid model and back to distance learning, if necessary. We are currently in Step 1 — Continuous Learning 2.0, where specific student populations will come in for additional support as safety allows.

Our instructional staff have attended multiple Google and Zoom meeting workshops and training sessions to sharpen their knowledge and skills to ensure the best possible learning experiences for all children. 

Our maintenance and custodial staff have worked countless hours preparing facilities and school grounds to make sure our schools are safe for staff and students. Office personnel are greeting families, registering students and making sure we are ready for our students to begin the school year. 

The first priority was to review parent, student and teacher survey data to learn how we could improve our work from the spring. Having that knowledge guided the work of the Continuous Learning Committee, which developed common templates for teachers to use in their Continuous Learning work in order to communicate with students and parents. 

The committee also recommended additional professional development for teachers in August and beyond. To that end, teachers have been engaged in professional development throughout August, led by our new Technology Teachers on Special Assignment. Teachers are also engaged in the "Shifting Schools" work that supports the changes teachers need to make when instructing online.

Teachers have learned how to better record videos for instruction and how to better use Google Meets, Seesaw and Google Classroom. Classes for parents were held Aug. 26-27. Teacher and parent professional development will be ongoing through the school year.

The district has adopted the Character Strong curriculum to meet the social and emotional needs of our students. Character Strong focuses on the whole child, teaching self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship and decision-making skills. Students will have Character Strong lessons in elementary school classes and during advisory class at the middle and high school levels.

The safety of students and staff continues to be a priority. Anyone coming to our facilities must wear a cloth face covering and participate in a health screening prior to entry. Our school spaces have been set up to meet the social distancing requirements.  We have purchased masks, shields, no-touch thermometers, desk shields, plexiglass, signage, cleaning and disinfecting supplies and equipment, and have trained staff. District maintenance workers have adjusted our HVAC systems to allow for the maximum amount of outside air to enter our facilities. Transportation has developed new protocols for seating, loading and unloading buses, and air circulation. 

Meanwhile, all district construction projects are on budget and on time even though the number of available workers has been affected by the many construction projects in our region and by public health-related concerns. 

The new Stanwood High School is scheduled for substantial completion by mid-November, and the new Church Creek Campus is nearly done. Demolition of the old Church Creek Campus will begin when the new Stanwood High School is occupied this winter. Also, three elementary schools, Cedarhome, Elger Bay and Utsalady, received playground and safety improvements, including new equipment. 

The technology department has been busy preparing to support teachers and families in this distance learning environment, including making Chromebooks available for all students, getting 450 internet hotspots for those in need of connectivity and establishing a technology helpline for families and students.

It is my sincere hope that every student and family will have a healthy and safe learning experience this school year.

 Jean Shumate is the superintendent of the Stanwood-Camano School District.

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