by OISD Superintendent Eric Webb
Fall is very much in the air as we enter week four of our Distance Learning Model at Orcas Island School District! Teachers, staff, and parents have worked diligently to adjust to a new learning model for our children. Parents and children have had the opportunity to meet with their teachers in-person to prepare for a successful term of learning in these last few weeks, and K-8 students enjoyed their first outdoor education day at Camp Orkila just last week.
Through the dedicated efforts and hard work of our Orcas community and San Juan County’s virus monitoring and contact tracing, San Juan County has not had a positive COVID -19 case in over six weeks. Overall, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in our five-county region are on the decline. A hot topic of discussion at the forefront of my weekly meetings with Mark Tompkins and SJC Public Health Officer, Dr. Frank James includes dialogue regarding just when San Juan County’s public schools can once again safely have students back on campus. I am pleased to say it appears as if we are getting closer, and that this may soon become a reality. Dr. James anticipates providing a recommendation in the next few weeks, provided that cases continue to be on the decline in our five-county region.
In the meantime, we will launch a survey this week of all OISD families via our electronic communication platform regarding our safe return to school. We will also survey parents in person (while appropriately socially distanced) at our EL Drive-Through Night, meal pick-ups, and Camp Orkila. This survey is not regarding the instructional model, which was first publicized back in August, but a survey including family concerns regarding returning to school, student transportation needs, and assessing those families who prefer to continue distance learning, etc. Our goal is to have 100% participation from all of our families and staff in this survey.
Our students’ return to campus, when it is safe to do so, will follow a phase-in approach to gradually bring students back to campus while transitioning to our In-Person Instructional Model. The first group to return to campus will be our K-2 students. Virus trends and county and state recommendations will certainly determine the flow of this phase-in process, and I will continue to meet with authorities at the county, regional, and state levels on a weekly basis.
As we continue to prepare for our students to return to campus for OISD’s In-Person Instructional Model for learning, rest assured that the district will move cautiously and thoughtfully with the safety of our students, families, staff, and community as our top priority.