SUNNYSIDE — The school board work session on Monday, Sept. 14, largely discussed connectivity issues throughout the district, updates on how virtual learning is progressing, and evaluating the return of small groups of students – specifically differently-abled students.

Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Angel Carrizales explained to the board how during the week of Sept. 14-18, evaluations were made for students who may need special education and English assessments for monolingual students.

“There has been a lot of work that has happened in the last couple weeks to do that in a safe manner. It was really important to us as we know that it is a challenge for those populations of kids to do remote learning effectively,” Carrizales conveyed.

The executive director added there were plans being put in place to add additional groups of students with a significant need for in-person learning such as students who don’t have the option for internet connectivity, students with mental health needs, homeless students, students who are at higher risk academically – especially those who may not graduate – and early learners from grades K-third.

Carrizales explained, “The rationale for the last population is because they’re still learning how to do school. It’s a challenge to do that if their first experience as kindergartners is in a virtual way.”

Board member Michelle Perry posed the question of how soon the majority of students can return. She brought to attention the Department of Health and the Yakima Health District (YHD) were discussing beginning to go into the hybrid model or full classroom return with social distancing, potentially as soon as Oct. 1.

Perry asked if students in Sunnyside could return into hybrid by Oct. 1 if it is, indeed, deemed by the Department of Health or YHD for a safe return, “Or are we still having to abide by giving the teachers a two week notice that we’re going to be going back to that point or can we be doing that now?” She asked.

Superintendent Kevin McKay expressed that an immediate transition into a hybrid model would need to be discussed with teachers and the certified employee group first due to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – a temporary contractually binding agreement between the district and employees.

The MOU in place for teachers to go from distance learning to a hybrid model of alternating remote learning and in class learning requires a period of time to allow for that transition.

“We have a binding agreement, approved by the board, and that agreement requires us to provide 15 days’ notice between transitioning from one instructional program – distance learning – into another one,” McKay confirmed.

“We abide by the contracts we sign and are approved by the board and we are bound to that.”

McKay explained he expects to see an update from the YHD and the Department of Health providing further guidance on how students can return to in-person instruction safely this week.

Elizabeth Sustaita can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email esustaita@sunnysidesun.com.

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