Wenatchee Schools Will Start Fall Online

Wenatchee Schools Will Start Fall Online

The Wenatchee School District has announced that due to an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in the community and across the state, it will recommend to the school board that school begin online August 26th for all K-12 students. The board will hold a special meeting and take action on the recommendation Wednesday, July 29 at 6:00 PM.

Initially, WSD planned to return PK-5th grade students to classrooms for in-person instruction in the fall and secondary though a hybrid (online/in-person) model. However, in light of new information from medical professionals and the health department, the District has changed direction and moved to resume school online until it is safe to return in-person. Students will learn in virtual classrooms taught by teachers at their enrolled schools until conditions allow face-to-face instruction.

In a meeting with regional superintendents, Public Health advised opening schools would lead to a significant transmission based on current infection rates. Medical professionals cited that in Chelan and Douglas counties, COVID-19 cases have increased to 450 per 100,000 people. An acceptable level for possibly reopening schools would be closer to 25 per 100,000.

With over 7,840 students and 1,200 employees, safety is the District’s number one priority when it comes to decisions about restarting school. “This is not where I want us to be; this is not where our staff wants us to be; we want our students back in the classroom,” said Wenatchee Superintendent Dr. Paul Gordon. Gordon also acknowledged the burden that a return to online learning places on families but underscored the fact that it is currently not safe to resume any level of in-person instruction at this time.

WSD school buildings house both students and staff, including some who fall into high-risk categories. What is known about the disease so far indicates young children are less likely to have severe impacts from COVID-19. Older children are capable of spreading the virus, with 11% of cases occurring in children aged 0-19. Asymptomatic students may also expose staff, their families, and others in the community, potentially creating a super spreader event. As a result, reopening school buildings for face-to-face instruction creates an untenable risk for students, staff, and the broader community. 

Using the feedback collected from stakeholders through surveys and focus groups, WSD made significant improvements to the remote learning model students and staff experienced in the spring. Now called “Continuous Learning 2.0,” the new online learning experience will be more robust, structured, and consistent. 

Continuous Learning 2.0 will be different than the District’s online school, Wenatchee Internet Academy (WIA),  a new offering the District rolled out a few weeks ago. The difference is that students participating in Continuous Learning 2.0 will eventually return to classrooms for in-person instruction when it is deemed safe. Students enrolled in WIA will continue learning online throughout the year. 

Virtual Town Hall for Parents:
Parent feedback has been a valued component of WSD’s Smart Restart plan and will continue to be essential. The District will be hosting a Smart Restart virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday, August 4th, at 6 PM for parents to hear more about restart plans for fall. Parents can submit questions before the meeting on the district website wenatcheeschools.org or smart restart website wenatcheeschools.org/smartrestart. A recording of the town hall session will be posted on the district webpage after the live broadcast.

More information on the Wenatchee School District’s Smart Restart plan is available at wenatcheeeschools.org/smartrestart.