Kennewick School District rethinks delays, calls in safety experts

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Less than a week after deciding to significantly delay the start of in-person learning for middle and high school students, Kennewick School District is having second thoughts.

“The (school) board has received a lot of community feedback about the decision to delay,” said Dr. Traci Pierce, the district’s superintendent. “The board is going to re-evaluate the timeline for moving to hybrid learning for middle and high schools on November 18. That is the next scheduled board meeting.”

RELATED: Parents, students and staff rally for KSD to reopen

Dr. Pierce made the announcement Tuesday evening via email and during a webinar on KSD’s strategic plan.

“The district is working to modify schedules at our middle and high schools to address the safety concerns, namely the number of class changes that students would be making throughout the day,” Pierce said.

Furthermore, Dr. Pierce announced the district is bringing in a team of environmental consultants to make sure things are safe.

“We have also now contracted with NV5 Dade Moeller to conduct a third-party assessment and readiness evaluation for our move to hybrid for middle and high schools.”

NV5/Dade Moeller “provides professional consulting services based on industry-leading expertise in radiation protection, occupational health & safety, fire protection, and laboratory quality assurance,” according to the company’s website.

Dr. Pierce said the assessment by NV5/Dade Moeller and the modified schedules for middle and high schools will be completed before the November 18 board meeting.

KSD’s reopening plan has been retooled a few times. On September 18, Dr. Pierce said hybrid learning for all students would start October 12. On September 30, the district postponed the plan by one week for elementary schools and three weeks for middle and high school students.

RELATED: Kennewick parent shares thoughts on postponement of hybrid learning

Grades K-5 began on October 19 but two days later the board of directors voted to delay in-person learning for grades 6-12 until February 2, 2021, citing “cohort mingling.”

From KSD’s October 22 Facebook post:

This decision came amidst concerns of reports of large community gatherings involving high school students, and concern that schools will be challenged to ensure the safety of all students and staff. The Board has directed the district to retain a third-party safety analyst to assess school district sanitizing protocols and to develop further plans to limit “cohort mingling” of students in middle and high schools when they return to school for in-person learning.

The several-month delay struck a nerve with many parents, who lit up Facebook comment sections and held a rally to re-open schools.

Dr. Pierce on Tuesday said the board and the district both have the best interests of students and staff in mind.

“All of us want to have our students return to in-person learning and we want all of our students and our staff to be safe,” said Pierce.

The superintendent sent out this letter Tuesday evening:

Dear Kennewick School District Staff and Families,

I have been in communication with Ms. Dawn Adams, president of the Kennewick School District Board of Directors. The Board would like the community to know that they will be re-evaluating the timeline for implementing hybrid learning for middle and high school during the Nov. 18 Board meeting.

The district is currently taking concrete action to address the health and safety concerns raised regarding middle and high schools. The district is taking the following actions:

  • Developing a modified schedule for middle and high school: The schedule will maintain the “AA/BB” hybrid model and reduce the number of class changes students make each day.
  • Completing a third-party safety assessment: The district has contracted with NV5 Dade Moeller to complete this safety readiness assessment.

These actions will be completed by Nov. 18 and presented to the Board to help inform the re-evaluation of the current timeline.

The district and the Board are committed to providing in-person learning for middle and high school students and to ensuring the continued safety of our students and staff.

We are a strong and cohesive community in Kennewick. We appreciate your continued support as we plan for moving forward with in-person learning for middle and high school.

Sincerely,

Dr. Traci Pierce
Superintendent

KSD REOPENING TIMELINE