From The Superintendent

To the Highland School District Families,   Mensage en Español aquí

The district would like to share with you the challenges and the plans we have for the remainder of this year and for the start of the 2021-22 school year in August.  As of today, with just 26 days of school left, we hope to be able to bring all students back to the buildings full time later in May. We feel this will help us plan and assess the needs of the district, staff, and students when school starts in August and inspire our students to seek help so they may finish strong.  We know this past year has presented many challenges and we feel the best place for them is to be is in the classroom and we are working to try to implement this.  Regardless of how this spring plays out, we fully intend to start next year with full-time on-site instruction with on-site food service, barring any alternative guidance by state or local health agencies. 

Here is one of the challenges that we face with bringing students back in May.  Currently the guidance from the state and local health districts allows students to be spaced three (3) feet apart in the classroom (while wearing masks) but they must be six (6) feet apart when eating (masks off). This presents an interesting problem: finding areas to adequately space students while providing supervision. 

The second challenge set by the Yakima Health District (YHD) states that junior high and high school students can be social distanced at three feet only if they are cohorted, which means students must move in the same groups as they do at our elementary levels. At HJH and HHS this is not possible due to the 6-period rotation schedule they currently have.  Also, the YHD guidance does not endorse full-time in-person learning at grades 7-12 until cases are under the 200/100,000 mark; currently we are at 254/100,000. 

So the question then is “Why don’t we bring back the MWC and TIS students full time and then assess the needs of our upper grades?”  This past fall the district made the decision to do a grocery style pick up model of food service in order to create and maintain a safe learning environment for students and staff. As you know, every Thursday during grocery pick up students may access a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches. If we were to return in May, this now causes a state and federal reimbursement food service program issue if all students cannot start together. 

Again, we are working with YHD to open the Highland School District. Our hope is that YHD will grant us an exception to move to full-time, in-person K-12 learning sometime in May.  In order for this to happen we need YHD approval to change our food service to on-site and come up with the understanding that it will be for the remainder of this school year.  If YHD does not approve our request we will work on how we can balance food service, transportation, and supervision issues in order to increase educational time for MWC and TIS students before the school year ends. 

Please watch for communication from your child’s school as we continue to work with YHD.  We appreciate your support and flexibility that has been shown during this trying and challenging year.  Like all of you, we are also frustrated and look forward to the time when all Highland students can be in our schools, full-time where they belong. 

Respectfully,

~Mark Anderson, Superintendent