Tumwater School Board Talks Hybrid Learning Plan, Community Concerns, and Fall Sports


Tumwater School Board met last night for a regular board meeting to discuss a series of updates and community concerns. The district’s recent hybrid learning plan, announced yesterday, was a key topic of conversation.

Hybrid Learning Plan

Board Member Sean Dotson explained the district’s new hybrid learning plan. This included students being divided into two cohorts, with each cohort learning in-person a few days a week and learning virtually for the remaining days.

Phase 1: Preschool - Second-grade students starting February 1.

“This is a target date which accounts for us taking precautions, training bus drivers, etc.,” said Dotson.

Phase 2: Third - Sixth-grade students starting February 18.

“As we bring back these two groups, this will give us a timeline for our next two phases. There are also different guidelines for high school students that we need to make sure we follow,” said Dotson.

Phase 3: Seventh and eighth-grade students. No date set.

 Conditional on how the previous two phases go.

Phase 4: High school students. No date set.

Also conditional on how the previous three phases go, following the different guidelines set for high schools.

All phases are based on the Hybrid Opening Decision Framework (pictured) and subject to change given Thurston County Public Health’s announcement on Jan. 5 regarding recommendations for expanding in-person learning. (See today’s letter from Thurston County Health Officer Dimyana Abdelmalek.)

 Community Concerns

During the public comments section of the meeting, several members of the community expressed their concerns about returning to hybrid learning. Tammy Bunn, a local family physician and mother of three teenagers related her experiences as a physician during these unprecedented times, arguing in favor of returning to in-person learning.

“I have been in practice for 21 years. We have seen roughly 30,000 patients in our practice since March when schools shut down. The teenage population here is suffering. Kids are disengaged, they are becoming obese, their grades are dropping, they are not turning on their cameras, and they are developing a lot of mental health issues that I think will have long-lasting effects,” said Bunn.

Parent Erica Wall brought some facts into her reasoning on why students should return to in-person learning: “Studies show that those students need 6-12 weeks to catch up once they have fallen behind. The problem here is that once they catch up, they are still behind. What does the achievement gap look like right now for these kids?”

Community member Sudhir Oberoi brought some questions to the board in his public comments. “How will you maintain proper sanitation on buses and in common areas? Do you really expect small children to wear their masks on buses and on their own throughout the day?”

Oberoi added, “60% of virus transmission comes from asymptomatic carriers, how will this affect our students, teachers, and their families? How will students maintain any certain type of routine if the school keeps suspending or pausing learning? How will teachers be effective when they are forced to quarantine for 10-14 days every time a positive case shows up in the classroom?”.

Math teacher Chris Hudson offered his personal experiences: “I miss my students and I miss my classroom, but I feel that reopening is a mistake. With the current data and the current state of COVID, it is undeniably, positively an increased risk to all Tumwater employees.”

Natalie Manning, a freshman at Tumwater High School, gave the board a look at what students are experiencing with her public comment. “During class, nobody has their cameras on. Because everyone has their cameras off, I have no idea what other students look like or who they are. Me and everyone I know are missing community interaction from school and sports. I ask that you listen to all the voices telling you to go back to school and support it.”

Fall Sports

Also announced at the meeting was a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIA) update by board member Casey Taylor: “Currently all fall sports (girls swim/dive, volleyball, cross country, girls soccer, boys tennis, boys golf, football, sideline cheer, and dance) are scheduled to start February 1.”

“We do not know what is actually happening with high-risk indoor sports, those being boys/girls basketball and wrestling, but a solution is being looked at. Some sports will likely have more spectators allowed than others as the cap for in-person attendance will be 200 people total, including the team members and coaching staff,” said Taylor.

Taylor also mentioned the idea of streaming sports and offering free virtual attendance as an option for the future. Another WIAA update will be given at the next regular board meeting on Thursday, February 11 at 6:00 p.m.

Kicks for Kids

Also addressed at the meeting was the Kicks for Kids program, led by Tumwater High School Community Schools Coordinator, Lindsey Bates. Bates spearheaded this program that provided 204 pairs of Nike shoes to students in the district varying from preschool to high school. Bates also helped get coats to 206 students in the district as well through a similar program.


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