When we made the decision in Highline to close schools in March, I found myself increasingly frustrated that conversations about planning for the fall focused primarily on logistics around protective personal equipment (PPE), seating capacity on school buses, etc. I agree that safety is paramount. I was also adamant, however, that we should be focusing on how to seize this moment to effect changes in public education that so many of us have wanted to see for so long. In the ensuing weeks and months, however, I came to the realization that I was sadly deluded. The sheer magnitude of planning for hybrid and/or distance learning proved to be more detailed and complex than I would have ever imagined. The innovative, elegant solutions I thought possible were not, given the fiscal, staffing, and safety constraints by which we were bound.
In Highline, we had the benefit of working with an incredibly talented team from McKinsey thanks to our partnership with Chiefs for Change, who has also been a tremendous partner and resource for us. Even with this technical assistance and support, however, our dedicated planning teams in Highline devoted virtually every day in June and July to developing our hybrid model and contingency plans for full-time distance learning. Every decision we made along the way elicited more questions needing to be answered. In the end, to get it right, trade-offs had to be made and practicality won out over innovation. Read More
I often tell my team that vulnerability is at the heart of strong leadership. And so, I will begin by being very honest and vulnerable about our experience with continuous learning. We were caught squarely behind the 8-ball when March 13th came along. We were nowhere near ready to stand up learning at a distance or a virtual continuous learning model. While our voters supported us in 2018 with the passage of a Capital Levy, much of which has been devoted to technology improvements, we were digging out of a very serious technological hole. The prior ten years had seen year-over-year cuts to technology, which had left our district short on devices and devoid of instructional technology integration/implementation.
In the days following the Governor’s directive to close all schools, we stood up childcare for our front line healthcare workers and we set up grab-and-go meal service, ultimately serving well over 10,000 meals/week, to ensure we met basic needs for our families. Fortunately, we had devoted a significant portion of our 2018 capital levy dollars to purchasing student devices, which meant we were able to issue almost 1,000 devices out to students, meeting every single request we received. This significantly helped ensure that all students had the opportunity to continue their learning at home. We partnered with our utilities district and internet providers to establish access to broadband services for all families who identified this need. Read More
The first American school, Boston Latin School, was established in 1635 and is both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States. What school looks like has changed gradually over the last nearly 400 years. Until 2020. The spring of 2020 saw rapid change and development of what “going to school” looks like. When Everett Public Schools had the first positive COVID-19 result at the end of February, there was immediate work to change how schools would be teaching and how students would be learning.
In the subsequent month, we developed processes and implemented plans to serve emergency meals, provide childcare to first responders and distribute additional Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots so students could start school from home. (All high school students and most middle school students already had Chromebooks thanks to the district’s 2016 Technology Levy.) We have distributed over 14,000 Chromebooks and 900 hotspots in addition to serving over 17,000 meals weekly because our first priority is the well-being of our students and then making sure they have the tools they need to stay engaged with learning. Read More