SUNNYSIDE — The work of the Sunnyside School District (SSD), the General Advisory group, and the Sub-Advisory groups was presented Monday night, July 27, to the board – a decision that will be finalized by August 7.

Public queries and statements were issued at the beginning of the 7:30 p.m. meeting. Health insurance questions about the liability coverage should teachers happen to contract COVID-19 were asked.

SSD teachers Tyler Miller and Karl Johnson made their statement on behalf of the SEA to represent the unified position of the SEA executive council made up of the elected representative of each school.

Miller and Johnson firstly described how face-to-face learning was imperative, however, health concerns supersede face-to-face learning.

Miller stated that if schools were to reopen while the numbers of infectious cases continue to grow, there is no doubt students, educators and families will contract the virus.

“Some will get sick and some may die. This is an unacceptable outcome and whoever makes the decision that leads to these deaths will be responsible for them,” Miller stressed.

Johnson reiterated Miller’s point by commenting that students, staff, and the community must come first, and the SEA expects the school board to choose the Continuous Learning 2.0 remote learning model.

“Making this decision now will give the school district and educators time to prepare and focus on a singular model of instruction,” Miller pointed out.

School Board member Michelle Perry restated how the health and safety of students, staff, and community members is of the utmost importance, but to also think of the mental health aspect as well. “We have a lot of students in our district that their only safe place is our schools and if they’re not in schools, they’re not safe. So, we have to take that into consideration, too,” she conveyed.

After recognition of Nayeli Suarez Godinez as the Migrant Student of the Year and Resolution 7, Appreciation of Staff and Community in Preparation for Reopening Schools, was moved for approval (3-2), Superintendent Kevin McKay began SSD’s presentation of reopening schools.

School Board Member Stephen Winfree expressed the need for a special board meeting “…to vote entirely and solely on reopening schools to get that resolution.”

McKay told of a release of information from the Yakima Health District is expected by the end of this week, July 31, or on Monday, August 3. He suggested the board wait until they receive the updated materials prior to voting.

After Friday, August 7, was mentioned to be the deciding date, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Angela Carrizales jumped into the different plans for the Continuous, Hybrid, and Tradition models the General and Sub-Advisory groups worked on for the last month.

Carrizales emphasized, “What we want to make sure is noteworthy is that whatever model we’re in, we will be providing a full online platform to support families that choose to do so.”

She then mentioned the underlying foundations of all the models that must be considered, coining them the SSD Pillars. The five pillars are first, ensuring individual and collaborative planning for employees providing instruction to student.

Second Pillar, packaging and delivering content, meaning adapting to model changing.

Third Pillar, creating collaborative learning opportunities for children so they can make sense of the project.

Fourth Pillar, assessments for and of student learning to ensure the continuation of progress.

Fifth and final Pillar, feedback on the content to safeguard quality learning.

Carrizales highlighted the need for minimizing platforms and providing developmentally appropriate platforms to different age groups of students. There will be synchronous (video applications that allow dialogue such as Zoom) and asynchronous (shoot and post and can go back to refer to them) platforms used.

A thorough discussion of plans for special education students, resources for English Language Learning students, health attestations (wherein a parent would daily describe the student’s health), parent academies to guide online learning and even mental health mindfulness were detailed in the plans.

Bus routes including families to go to school together should a hybrid model be implemented, grouped recesses, and classroom lunches were described as the best options for the hybrid model.

After the presentation was concluded, it was suggested that the Continuous 2.0 model may be the chosen road, however, School Board decisions will not be finalized until August 7.

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

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