SUNNYSIDE — On Monday evening, Aug. 3, Superintendent Brad Van Beek of Sunnyside Christian School (SCS) announced to the public that Sunnyside Christian students can expect to go back to school on Aug. 25 in a face-to-face model while early last week, Mabton School District announced a fully remote learning model for their reopening.
Van Beek first addressed the questions parents had about the private school status and whether or not that meant the schools were obligated to follow the Office of the Superintendent Public Instruction (OSPI).
SCS superintendent stated that while they are a private institution, there are many instances when SCS has followed OSPI guidelines such as graduation requirements and the number of days and hours that are divvied up in a school year.
He further stressed, “We do need to abide by their guidelines. That’s why in the spring, when the governor called for all school closures, we abided by that.”
That being said, Van Beek informed the community that earlier in the summer, OSPI gave out a directive for schools to formulate three different plans to reopen schools – a in-person model, a fully online model, and a hybrid of the two that would best work for the schools.
While waiting for an update from OSPI, Van Beek stated they are moving forward with an in-person model because of their small student numbers. This plan included the social distancing spacing, requiring face masks for staff and students, daily health screenings, and shortening the school day by an hour to allow teachers to have a planning period.
Mabton Superintendent Dr. Joseph Castilleja announced on Tuesday, July 28, that Mabton School District will begin their fall term on Aug. 25 with the online Continuous Learning 2.0.
Dr. Castilleja wrote an open letter to the public, stating the decision was made after cautious deliberation.
“A lot of factors went into making this decision. It just came down to the safety of our community,” the superintendent wrote in his address.
He added separately, “Part of our decision was based on our belief that a decision needed to be made. Our teachers and staff, as well as our parents want to get started at planning the best system possible.”
Considering the data available to the school district, Dr. Castilleja stated a distance learning model is the safest option to begin and to provide high-quality teaching, planning needed to begin as soon as possible.
The Mabton administrator explained in the open letter to the community how the online learning during the spring term was developed in a short time because of the emergency shut down. Consequently, fall term will look different because of the experience gained.
Dr. Castilleja stressed moving forward with the intentions of doing the best teaching and learning. He urged students and parents to help make this happen.
“In the weeks and months to come, we will be working on new ways of collaborating, coaching, and informing our community on how to best maneuver through Mabton’s online learning model,” he conveyed.
With final words of encouragement, Dr. Castilleja implored students to gear up their mindset for the first day of school, Tuesday, Aug. 25, and stated “…we look forward to meeting you in the middle. Together, we will be better!”
The Mabton School District team is working on further development of plans and are scheduled to release more information on Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Editor's note: The Sunnyside Christian School Board has not approved a reopening plan and will be meeting tonight, Thursday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. to discuss the matter. The story was updated to reflect the clarification.