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Ferndale School District announces start to in-person classes for some students

FERNDALE, Wash. — Ferndale School District Superintendent Linda Quinn told the Ferndale School Board at the September 29th regular meeting that guidance from the Whatcom County Health Department was indicating the potential for resuming some classes for some students in school buildings. Today, October 8th, the district issued a press release announcing a potential schedule for bringing some students back.

In August, the district announced they were following a 6-stage process for returning to 100% in-person classes. At that time, they said the 2020-2021 school year would begin in “stage 2” with 100% remote-learning, utilizing online curriculums and teacher presence. Some buildings were opened to students living in areas with no internet service using areas designated “safe remote learning areas.”

Today’s announcement signals a move to “stage 3” of the process. At this stage, students identified to be in greatest need of additional support will be able to receive in-person instruction for a limited amount of time each week.

The schedule for bringing students back is as follows:

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October 19:    Students in Developmental Pre-School, Life Skills Classrooms, and Self-Contained Behavior Classrooms; students with complex IEPs; and Emerging and Progressing English Language Learners (whose parents choose) are phased into in-person learning to meet their individual needs.

October 19     All Kindergarteners (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model, which includes two days per week of in-person learning and three days per week of distance learning.

October 26:    All 1st graders (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model

November 2:   All 2nd and 3rd grade (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model.

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November 9:   All 4th and 5th grade (whose parents choose) start the hybrid model.

Ferndale School District press release (October 8, 2020).

Planning is underway for how to provide in-person instruction for students in the middle schools.

The district announcement says district staff are watching the COVID-19 data provided the Whatcom County Health Department and may alter the plan to advance to “stage 3” or put it on hold if there is a spike in the community spread of the virus.

In addition, outbreaks in classrooms, buildings or across the district could require returning to “stage 2” as could any challenges in being able to meet health and safety guidelines according to today’s announcement.

Quinn also told board directors their last meeting that the student population this year had dropped by about 7%. This is a change of approximately 300 students, with over 80% of the loss happening in the elementary grades. In contrast, the high school population had grown by over 40 students.

Recent years’ student populations in the school district had remained relatively flat at around 4,600 students. The population at the beginning of the school year was about 4,300, according to Quinn.

The amount of state funding of public school districts is determined on a per-student basis. So this reduction in student population means a loss of over $2.7-million in state funding, Quinn told the board. This amount represents about 4% of the total expected revenues for the school year according to the final 2020-2021 school year budget published by the Ferndale School District. The budget projected a population of about 4,650 students.

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