White Pine Families and Staff,
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their efforts in making these times a little easier. Specifically our staff, who spent the last week diligently preparing for taking education online. Our families, who are continuing to make the necessary sacrifices for the children to receive an education through non-traditional means while maintaining the health and safety of those in their home. White Pine is truly an incredible community, and there is no way we could continue to move forward without each other.
As some of you heard there was an Emergency Board Meeting last night at 5:00 PM. The meeting lasted approximately 10 minutes with the only action item being a final decision to move to distance learning for the week beginning March 30th. At that point our intentions were to evaluate the ever changing COVID-19 situation weekly in order to make the most informed and beneficial decisions for our specific district. That being said, the meeting was put together quickly and the process of sharing information with our stakeholders was not disseminated in an effective nor efficient manner as we only posted it online. Even though this met the minimum requirements for a meeting, we do not want this process to be commonplace. For that we apologize, and in regards to meetings in the future we will do our best to get notice out to families so all stakeholders may have the option to participate. For the foreseeable future WPCS/WPSA board meetings will be via Zoom video and phone conferencing. We plan to hold our regular monthly meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday March 31st at 6:30 PM. We will send out instructions on how to join, as well as an agenda within the coming days.
Hindsight is 20/20 they say, which only seems fitting. What seemed like moments after our emergency board meeting concluded, the state of Idaho provided further guidance on school closures. The Idaho State Board of Education enacted the following information in regards to COVID-19 SCHOOL OPERATIONS GUIDANCE (Approved 3/23/20):
Given the current situation, the State Board of Education directs that all school districts and charter schools implement a soft closure through Monday, April 20. During this soft closure period, local districts shall follow national CDC guidelines pertaining to large gatherings and social distancing. While students are not permitted in schools, the State Board expects efforts to continue facilitating essential services and student learning. The Board will reassess this timeline as circumstances dictate.
During this soft closure period, the Board expects that school districts will continue to provide these educational and essential services to the best of their ability. The school districts and charter schools are asked to focus on the following:
- Develop and implement a continuation of essential services to your local communities. At a minimum, plans should include providing food service to Idaho’s underserved populations and childcare for our community members that provide critical services, with a focus on meeting the needs of local communities and supporting wider state emergency plans.
- Implement and/or develop remote learning strategies that will benefit all K-12 students in school districts and charter schools. These plans should be designed in the event that a community needs to maintain closures for an extended period or the remainder of the school year.
- School districts and charter schools shall develop a plan on delivering special education services, following recent federal guidelines, which may include revisions of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 Plans. The U.S. Department of Education has provided new guidance on revising IEPs and delivering remote education to special education students which can satisfy federal requirements.
How do these specific guidelines impact White Pine Charter School and White Pine STEM Academy? How does our district plan to move forward in regards to providing these specific services?
We have a call out to the state on whether they prefer we continue providing food services through larger surrounding districts or develop our own program. Lori Orme, our Child Nutrition Director, is ready to implement food services at our site should the state give that directive. We are also getting guidance from the state on child care and what other districts are doing. We have made contact with Maggie’s Place about this possibility, and are awaiting further guidance from the state department. Our district is unique in the fact that our community is small but mighty. We want to ensure we are following state guidelines/regulations while keeping our stakeholders best interest in mind.
Teachers and staff have prepared for remote learning. As mentioned in previous communications, White Pine Charter School will be using Seesaw and the STEM Academy will be using the Schoology platform. We understand that technology may be a barrier for many families. Our IT staff has been preparing chromebooks to loan to families during this time, and we hope to begin offering them as soon as Thursday of this week. Information specific to this will be sent out in a separate communication. If you have not previously contacted Mr. Graham or your student’s teacher (about technology) please do so as soon as possible so we can do our best to meet the needs of everyone.
We will hold “office hours” weekly where parents can pick up/drop off paper copies of assignments. Stakeholders may also obtain technology during these hours. The following times are when we will have staff members at each site.
Monday – 8-10 am
Tuesday – 11 am-1 pm
Wednesday – 4-6 pm
Thursday – 3-5 pm
Friday – 2-4 pm
Our Special Education and 504 departments are working closely with the state department and individual teachers in order to ensure that academic services and accommodations are in place prior to beginning the distance learning adventure. The elementary special education students will be using the Seesaw platform and will have access to lessons that target their IEP goals. The secondary special education students will receive instruction through the Schoology platform with seperate lessons offered to each of them that correlate with their IEP goals. Parents and/or guardians with students who have been identified Kindergarten through 9th grade should have received communication regarding this information via email. If you have not please contact Mrs. Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team is coordinating schedules with our therapists to create a schedule for students receiving related services such as OT and/or Speech/Language. If you have not been in touch with her please send an email at the above listed address. Our team will be participating in training this week to receive further guidance on best practices moving forward. All meetings regarding our special population will be through the video conferencing platform, Zoom. Thanks again for the efforts of everyone in our White Pine Family. You are appreciated more than you know, and I can speak for everyone when saying we truly miss seeing the children each day. If you have any further questions or concerns feel free to reach out to either Ken Graham at email@example.com or Devan Tyler at firstname.lastname@example.org.