With the remainder of the in-person academic year now canceled, Federal Way Public Schools is rolling out plans to make sure the learning doesn’t stop.
On April 6, Gov. Jay Inslee extended the current closure of public, private and charter schools through June 19 and warned campuses could possibly be shuttered through the summer and into the start of next school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In mid-March, Federal Way Public Schools provided each student with a hard copy packet of learning materials for what was expected to be a six-week closure of schools.
Now, school officials have quickly devised new plans.
“We’re recreating and redesigning a system that would usually take months. We’ve had to do it in three weeks,” FWPS Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell told the Mirror this week.
When the district returns from spring break (scheduled April 6-10), laptops will be disseminated to all students who do not have access to a computer or technology at home, Campbell told the Mirror.
Laptops will be supplied to any student who does not have one in grades 9-12. For students in grades K-8 who do not have access to a computer, one laptop will be supplied per family. High school seniors were given first priority for technology last week, and the next roll out of laptops will include all other grade levels.
So far, the district has distributed on average 25-40 laptops per high school. These computers are being taken from each school building’s inventory, Campbell said.
Each school in the district has an in-house inventory of computers which, under normal circumstances, are not for students to take home.
Given Gov. Inslee’s recent extension of school closures, the laptops will now be brought to the district’s central office, disinfected, and loaned to students in need beginning April 13. The laptops are expected to be returned at the end of the current school year in June 2020.
Through information gathered in recent surveys, the district estimates loaning approximately 4,000-4,500 devices and around 600-800 WiFi hotspots to families across the district, according to Kassie Swenson, FWPS chief of communications.
Due to the district’s current state of insufficient funding, Campbell said, loaner computers cannot be provided to every student. The district also has limited WiFi hotspots.
While in-person classes are cancelled for the remainder of the academic year, distance learning will continue.
Through April 17, students will continue to work on the hard copy practice-only lessons and activities, previously sent in the mail, of standards already covered in the classroom.
Beginning April 20 through the end of the school year, FWPS will begin a continuous learning plan with enhanced remote instruction.
Federal Way Public Schools and school districts across the state are seeking clarification from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) regarding whether the school year is required to be extended.
The district does not have definitive end of school year dates to share at this time, Swenson said.
“It’s not an online school and it’s not digital learning,” Campbell wrote in a press release sent to district families Monday.
Incorporating a mix of digital and non-digital materials, the plan provides instructional activities around new standards to maintain academic growth and avoid significant learning loss.
Students and parents will receive an email every Monday from their teacher with an outline of lessons for the week.
“For our first time in our history, we’re relying on families to do at-home learning and support,” Campbell said.
Elementary students will receive 1-2 essential standards per week, and secondary students will receive a new lesson for each course. Additional communications and support will be provided for students who require special education and/or English Language Learner (ELL) services.
Remote learning during the closure period will not be graded, Campbell said. The materials are important for practice purposes and to ensure each student is prepared for the upcoming academic year, she said.
“We already have three quarters of the year under our belt,” said Campbell, adding that grade level advancements for the upcoming academic year will continue as usual for students.
Standards taught up to the school closure date of March 13 will be graded. If students did not meet the standard, teachers will reach out to the student to help them meet the standard, the district reports.
“Students will not receive grades on their learning of new standard-based lessons and activities provided through the end of the school year,” according to a district statement, which says teachers are providing feedback on some assignments. “It’s essential that scholars participate in the weekly lessons because this learning will build the foundation for the following school year.”
The possibility of summer school is still under consideration of the governor, Campbell said.
Last week, Campbell held a Zoom meeting with high school seniors from throughout the district to listen to their concerns about missing out on their final year of high school.
“I talked with the seniors about what it might look like if we don’t convert again in a face-to-face form,” she said of their conversation before Inslee’s extended school closure was announced.
Some seniors told Campbell when they joked about wanting a school closure, they didn’t want it for this long or at this time of the school year.
“They were sad,” Campbell said. “They feel like they’re missing out on a once in a lifetime thing.”
FWPS is waiving some of the graduation requirements and hoping for school board approval to waive the necessary amount of credits needed for graduation from 26 to 24 for the class of 2020. The High School and Beyond plan will also be simplified.
Additionally, the State Board of Education has approved districts waiving certain graduation requirements for individual students, and FWPS will be applying for a two-credit flexible credit waiver for students on a case-by-case basis, Swenson said.
The waiver requires districts to make a good faith effort to give students opportunities to complete credits for high school graduation, she said.
In an upcoming virtual Q&A session, Campbell will brainstorm ideas with the seniors regarding options for senior year traditions, prom and graduation ceremonies, but it is too soon to tell if in-person ceremonies will be canceled, she said.
Graduation ceremonies were previously scheduled to take place June 8 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent for Federal Way, Decatur and Thomas Jefferson high schools. Todd Beamer High School’s graduation is scheduled for June 9.
“In light of the fact that we’re in this very frightening time, we’re still going to be supporting learning and also the social emotional health of scholars,” she said. “It’s critical we do both of these things.”
The challenge for district employees is to be innovative and solutions-oriented while in a bubble of isolation, surrounded by people dying and people losing their jobs, Campbell said.
At this time, the FWPS has not laid off or furloughed any employees, Campbell confirmed. There are also no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among any staff members in the district.
While the school district’s budget has not been affected yet, there may be major long-term consequences, Campbell said.
“We’re planning for the worst,” Campbell said.
Free breakfast and lunch meals for students will continue during the closure at school and community locations across the district.
FWPS will shift to a new model of “grab-and-go” meals, allowing families to pick up 5 days worth of meals on a single day, rather than visiting a site daily. This change helps families to stay home four days of the week. The new model is anticipated to begin April 27.
FWPS will provide childcare for students of parents who are essential workers during the pandemic, including but not limited to first responders and healthcare workers. More information can be found at fwps.org.