With preschool resuming in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, parents are wondering what’s next for students after the district decided to begin the school year entirely online.
Preschool resumed across the district on Nov. 2. Classes will be small in size, ranging from three to eight children in each class, and a maximum of 25 students in a given building per day.
“Because preschool is a very limited program, supporting our youngest students in small cohorts, we remain in line with (Department of Health) guidance,” said district spokesperson Carolyn Malcolm in an email.
The Washington State Department of Health considers 75 or more cases per 100,000 people over a two week period in county to be a high risk environment for in-person schooling. King County, after a dip in numbers over the summer, has rebounded to more than 80 per 100,000 in recent weeks, according to Seattle and King County Public Health.
The state Department of Health is still recommending online learning for the majority of students. Exceptions to this are students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, students who are farthest from educational justice and young students. It also recommends younger students be prioritized in returning to schools in-person.
In addition to hosting smaller classes, the Department of Health recommends wearing masks, physical distancing in classrooms, improving ventilation, sanitizing frequently and grouping children in cohorts to limit exposure.
Some students with disabilities who have struggled with online learning have also been brought back for in-person learning. Individual therapy sessions began at the start of the school year for some students. The district’s Transition Learning Center which serves students ages 18 to 21 started in mid-September with a hybrid model of outdoor learning. This program moved indoors in mid-October.
For the rest of the students in the district, there is no firm timeline for when they could return to the classroom. The district has yet to set a target date to bring additional grades back.
“However, we are continuing to plan for a phased-in approach to reopening schools. Our plan is to bring back our younger learners next, likely kindergarten and 1st graders as a next phase,” Malcolm said.
When classes do resume for K-5 students, a hybrid model which alternates students schedules between morning and afternoon casses will likely be used. And families will be able to opt out and remain in entirely online schooling if they choose to.