This decision is very difficult and made with the health and safety of our students and staff in mind. We know this has been an extremely challenging start to the school year, and we want to say thank you to all of our students, parents and teachers for their support and feedback. We want you all to know that we hear you, and we have a team of administrators working to deliver a safe, successful school year.
The district will continue to monitor the air quality index throughout each day, and no matter what the weather holds in the next three days, we are committed to starting school no later than Monday, September 21, via in-person or full remote district-wide. We hope we can begin classes this week, but If the air quality remains hazardous, we will deliver instruction in a full remote learning environment for all students. If it improves to safe levels, we will deliver in-person instruction as planned. To be clear, if the air quality remains hazardous and we deliver instruction remotely, it will not be permanent.
The district has also received a number of questions related to returning students to our schools and keeping them inside to prevent overexposure to hazardous air. We are working on how to combine COVID-19 air flow and ventilation protocols with the mitigation of hazardous air inside our buildings. District protocols, which were developed with information from federal, state and local guidelines for protecting our community against the spread of COVID-19, center around replacing inside air with outside air as much as possible. With the challenge of hazardous air quality levels outside due to smoke, pulling in outside air can make it difficult to maintain a safe environment inside. The combination of these two challenges prevent us from meeting our current air flow and ventilation protocols.
Many are also asking why we can’t simply start school remotely for all students and transition to our face-to-face models when the air quality improves. As the district prepared for the school year and the potential for a need to shift to full remote learning at times for some or all students, plans were made to distribute Chromebooks to those who chose in-person learning on their first day of school. This leaves us today with about 7,000 Chromebooks spread between our schools that still need to be distributed to students at all grade levels. That number means that more than 50 percent of our students are without the technology necessary to access the school network and no way to pivot to a full remote learning option until the technology has been deployed. To be ready for the possibility of remote-only instruction for all students on Monday, our Tech Department is currently working on a plan to deploy Chromebooks this week so that students will have the tools to access remote learning if the air quality does not improve. Information on when and how to pick up your child’s Chromebook will come from your child’s school on Wednesday.
As planned, preschool will begin one week after the first day of school for grades K-12 to allow for the completion of student assessments. A district-wide shift to full remote learning due to hazardous air quality levels would also result in no in-person service for students who access special education. Remote services will be available for these students.
The challenges we are facing are fluid and dynamic, and we understand that is putting added stress on our students and families. We are always striving to do our best, respond to the changing landscape and successfully deliver instruction to our students. Thank you for being part of the Mead community and supporting our students and teachers through this unique time.
For more information on the districts reopening and safety plans, educational overviews and FAQ’s click here: https://bit.ly/meadreopening2020