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July 20, 2020

Dear KSD Community

After reviewing the most recent data from staff and family surveys, guidance from health officials, and the draft plans from our Back to School Task Force, we have made the decision that we will begin the school year on August 27, with remote learning. All KSD families should plan for all students to begin the 2020-21 school year in remote learning.

Leading with Equity

Leading with equity means a continued commitment to monitoring our plans and adjusting them to address the needs and safety of our students, families, and staff. Leading with equity also means the COVID-19 pandemic and planning for remote learning does not impact all staff and families in the same way. We encourage our entire KSD community to show each other compassion and grace during this time. Because the needs of our community to make plans for the school year are so diverse, we made this decision now, even as we are still finalizing details. Families should plan to be in remote learning status at least through the first quarter of the school year, which ends October 30. However, should the pandemic situation drastically improve, we have been preparing for safety measures for a partial or full return of all students to our buildings.

Arriving at this Decision

We have worked for months to identify ways to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff, and still provide a meaningful learning experience in-person. I believe beginning the school year in remote learning is the best option for our entire KSD community, given the current challenges presented by COVID-19 to both educate our students and keep everyone safe.

Beyond the guidance from state and government officials, and public health authorities, as Superintendent, I cannot ignore the concerns and fears of our staff and families. Currently, we are accepting responses through our Family Readiness survey, which closes Wednesday, July 22. Already over 7,000 families have responded, early results show there is no easy decision for the fall. The majority of KSD family respondents oppose or strongly oppose full in-person school (56%). While families are undoubtedly uncomfortable with a traditional school model, support for the hybrid or full remote model is equal at 47%. Our Staff Readiness survey indicates a similar opposition returning to school buildings. 48.95% of Team KSD has responded so far; 65.7% feel somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable returning to work in-person for the 2020-21 school year.

Remote Learning In 2020-21

During the emergency closures last spring, we learned a great deal about remote learning. The feedback from students, families, and staff experiences, and the professional learning and collaboration since this spring is helping us to build a robust remote learning plan for the upcoming school year. The Back to School Task Force has been critical in this process. Remote learning in 2020-21 will be of high-quality and consistently provided with more explicit expectations and accountability for instruction and assignments. Learning opportunities and supports for families on the districtwide learning management system, supplemental learning applications, and student-teacher communication platform will be provided. We will continue providing professional learning to all KSD staff to support student success and social-emotional wellness in the remote learning environment.

I want to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who has taken the time to ask a question, share their thoughts, and participate in the process of planning for the fall, particularly our Task Force members. I know the process of working collectively with internal and external stakeholders takes more time, and effort. Still, it is critical that we do so as this will assist us in creating the most effective plan possible.  We remain committed to continued collaboration and partnership with our KSD Community moving forward.

Continued Feedback

In the coming weeks, our focus will be finalizing our improved remote learning plan, including professional learning for all staff and supports for students, families, and staff. Our final plan will be shared with the Kent School Board and posted to our website on August 3. At that time, we will accept community feedback via Thoughtexchange, leading up to an August 12, regular Board Meeting, where public comment will be accepted.  

This pandemic has challenged all of us in so many ways. We hear and acknowledge the full range of viewpoints regarding the best course of action. We remain committed to reopening our school buildings when it is considered safe for all students and staff by making data-based decisions.

In partnership and service, 

Dr. Calvin J. Watts
Superintendent

Highlights

  • After reviewing the most recent data from staff and family surveys, guidance from health officials, and the draft plans from our Back to School Task Force, we have made the decision that we will begin the 2020-21 school year on August 27, 2020, with remote learning. 
  • All KSD families should plan for all students to begin the 2020-21 school year in remote learning.
  • Leading with equity means a continued commitment to monitoring our plans and adjusting them to address the needs and safety of our students, families, and staff.
  • Remote learning in 2020-21 will be of high-quality and consistently provided with more explicit expectations and accountability for instruction and assignments.
  • Learning opportunities and supports for families on the districtwide learning management system, supplemental learning applications, and student-teacher communication platform will be provided.
  • Our final plan will be shared with the Kent School Board and posted to our website on August 3. At that time, we will accept community feedback via Thoughtexchange, leading up to our August 12, 2020, Regular Board Meeting, where public comment will be accepted via Zoom.  
  • Please remember guidance from local, state, and federal authorities may change as public health conditions evolve.