The Marysville School District will begin this fall with online learning again with two different options for parents.
District officials answered parents' questions during an online town hall meeting on Aug. 27.
They are planning a second meeting currently scheduled for Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. as well. District staff hope to have Spanish language options available for that meeting as well.
The district, like the majority of districts in the area, has opted to start with distance learning this fall with a plan in place to transition to in-person learning when the COVID-19 pandemic slows in the county.
"As you all know the global pandemic has put on a strain on our community, the state of Washington and really the entire country," said Jason Thompson, superintendent of the district.
"We desperately wanted to open schools this fall with students and staff to attend in person," he said, however state agencies and the Snohomish Health District have advised that it is not safe at this time.
"Our top priority has been the safety of students and staff," said Thompson.
The school district has planned out how to transition to a part in-person and part online school model when case numbers drop in the county to a safe level.
"Without trying to speculate what might happen, a lot of us are looking toward the end of October to do a hybrid schedule," said Thompson.
Although, he said, anything could happen and the district is really following the guidance of the Snohomish Health District. "Right now it's really up in the air," he said.
The district is planning to provide two online options for families.
The first is known as "Continuous Learning 2.0" and is meant to be an improved version of last year's spring distance learning that can transition to in-person learning.
The second is "Marysville Online" and is designed to be more independent and is meant to be taken for the entire school year for families that would not feel safe sending their kids back to school during a pandemic.
"Continuous Learning 2.0" has changes from last spring's model based on survey feedback from parents and students.
The number of platforms has been simplified and streamlined.
District staff were also attempting to create a holistic school experience with interaction with teachers and students that could eventually phase in to in-person learning.
"Setting up the school culture in a way that your students really get to know their teacher," said Christopher Pearson, Marysville's executive director of elementary schools.
"This is our best attempt at creating a positive, rigorous school culture in a virtual mode," he said.
Online schedules have also been designed for a mix of both screen-time with their classroom and independent study.
"We don't think it's a good idea for students to stay six hours in front of the computer," said Rodrick Merrell, Marysville's executive director of secondary schools.
"We have been doing that all summer and I, as an adult learner, can tell you that it is a challenge," he said.
Electives will still be available at secondary schools, said Merrill.
Other extracurricular activities will also be supported as they can be.
"All of the secondary schools are making plans around what kinds of extracurricular activities they can have," said Merrill.
Sports have been delayed until at least Dec. 28.
With the "Marysville Online" option, elementary students will require a parent with them to work on the curriculum.
"If you're able to be home with your child, or another adult is, it could be a really nice fit," said Pearson.
"If you feel that you will not feel safe sending your child to school this year, you will be able send your child to this for the entire year," he said.
The program, "Edgenuity," that "Marysville Online" will use is already something the district has experience with.
"We have used it as a tool when a student did not receive credit for a course and needs to get that credit," said Merrill.
For secondary school students it’s a "very independent" experience he said, with instruction provided through videos.
District staff is focusing their standards to the more essential components for online learning.
"For at least this first quarter, OSPI really recommended that schools narrow their scope of academic standards so they can do those really well," said Pearson.
District staff have also been working through how to educate students with special needs or those with disabilities.
"We are working on making sure we are serving our students who are furthest away from educational justice," said Rachel Quarterman, elementary special services director with the district.
"We all recognize we can do better than we did in the spring," she said.
The district can bring back a limited number of students for in-person learning right now, said Quarterman, however that process still has to be safe for everyone involved.
She recommends parents keep in touch with their case manager to learn about the different supports available.
Online learning has caused internet access to be critical to most students, which presents equity challenges.
The pandemic has also left many unemployed or underemployed.
Thompson said the district is working with community groups to support those families who need help with supplies, childcare or internet access.
"Contact us at the service center and we will do our best to connect you with a community partner," he said.