District is seeking parent and student feedback on what they want for their safety

The Arlington School District is considering how next fall will go for the district and is gathering feedback from the community.

The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (a.k.a. OSPI) has not mandated how districts are meant to return for the next school year, but have provided some options.

"Since the COVID closures we've had a task force that has been meeting regularly to talk about the different aspects and challenges for the schools," said Gary Sabol, director of communications with the district.

That task force has been meeting since March and recently put together a 'Reopening Arlington Schools 2020' committee to look over the recommendations from the OSPI.

The committee included district staff, parents, students, members of the Stillaguamish Tribe, local businesses and community members.

"From all these different groups they comprised a committee to consider how school should open next year," said Sabol.

"We want to make sure all voices are being heard in this decision," he said.

As part of the committee's work they have put together surveys to gather public opinion from students and parents.

The student survey is at surveymonkey.com/r/WXQVYQQ while the parent survey is at surveymonkey.com/r/WMNR2Z3.

Sabol is unsure how long the district will keep up the two surveys.

OSPI provided a number of different recommendations on how schools could re-open, and currently Arlington staff are looking at three of those options.

Traditional, everyday face-to-face schooling is unlikely to happen next year, said Sabol.

"I don't think that's going to be a realistic option," he said.

Partially because OSPI requires kids to wear masks all day long for that option, which is not very feasible for most kids.

The first option the district is considering would be a rotating schedule model where students would be on campus half the time and distance learning the other half.

"Maybe some kids are here on Mondays and Wednesdays and the others on Tuesdays and Thursdays," said Sabol.

There are other ways to rotate schedules, such as every other week, that the district could do.

The second option is the 'phased' approach.

This method would bring only certain groups of students on campus to learn. For example elementary students could go to classrooms all across the district, even on campuses typically for middle school and high school students, while secondary students do distance learning.

Grade levels could be phased back in one at a time or in bands as the pandemic wanes and it is deemed appropriate.

The third approach would be a continuation of the distance learning that happened in the spring.

Sabol said that although that may be the least likely option, the district still has to think about what this option would entail in case schools are forced to close down again. 

Sabol acknowledges that what the district ultimately chooses is unlikely to please all groups.

"There's not really a perfect fit for everyone," he said.

The committee is still working on what to recommend.

"We haven't made a decision yet," said Sabol.

"The goal is to have a recommendation to the board by mid-July so that we have the rest of the summer to prepare," he said.

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