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Plans for how to reopen Ferndale schools have begun forming

Ferndale School District sign outside the administration building on Vista Drive (October 22, 2016). Photo: Whatcom News

FERNDALE, Wash. — Ferndale school buildings closed, along with all other K-12 public schools across the state, on March 17th. Since then, questions of when and how to reopen the buildings have been asked by families and staff. Recently, answers to those questions have begun to take shape.

On June 11th, Superintendent Chris Reykdal of the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) released guidance to school districts for reopening school buildings.

The 2020–21 school year will likely look different from previous school years. Districts should prioritize providing face-to-face instruction as public health conditions allow, instituting physical distancing and other preventative practices to keep students and staff healthy. When face-to-face instruction is not possible, districts can use considerations in this guide to design appropriate local plans for meeting the needs of all students. In addition, every school district should have a contingency plan in place for continuous remote learning should they need to close to preserve health and safety.OSPI: Reopening Washington Schools 2020 District Planning Guide (June 11, 2020)

About the same time as when the OSPI guidance was released, Ferndale School District officials sent out surveys to staff and families. Some results of the surveys were presented during the regular Ferndale School Board meeting on June 30th. Highlights of information presented include:

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High-speed Internet Access
Yes418 (86%)1278 (83%)
No29 (6%)150 (10%)
Face Coverings
Not Comfortable20.60%31.30%
Comfortable with Concerns44.70%37.60%
Comfortable with Little/No Concerns34.80%31.20%
Symptom Check
Not Comfortable8%9.10%
Comfortable with Concerns30.20%25.90%
Comfortable with Little/No Concerns61.70%64.9%
Physical Distancing Requirements
Not Comfortable21.50%
Comfortable with Concerns39.50%
Comfortable with Little/No Concerns39%
Returning to In-Person School
Not Comfortable52 (11%)214 (14%)
Comfortable with Concerns256 (53%)623 (41%)
Comfortable with Little/No Concerns177 (36%)690 (45%)

In addition, 263 families (17% of survey respondents) said they would utilize a full-time distance learning option if given the choice. 222 (15%) said they would homeschool or withdraw their student from school if there was no full-time distance learning option available.

District officials said this week they are assembling a “Reopening Schools Task Force” of 38 people to create a plan consistent with the directives from OSPI and the Department of Health. Task force virtual meetings are scheduled to be held online Tuesdays from 5pm to 7pm from July 7th through August 18th. A final reopening plan is due to be submitted to OSPI by August 19th according to district officials

While the task force is primarily composed of district employees, district officials have put out a call for volunteer community members to individually represent elementary, middle school and high school parents as well. Anyone interested to volunteer on the task force is asked to complete and submit an application. The deadline is 8am, Monday, July 6th.

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