Walla Walla Sch. Dist.
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District sets March dates for high school return to in-person learning - 02/25/21

WALLA WALLA – Following nearly a one-year break from in-person learning amidst the COVID pandemic, high school students will begin returning to campuses Monday, March 8 utilizing the AM/PM hybrid model.

\A significant decline in local COVID cases over the past two months according to data provided by the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health allowed the district to shift to the green stage of its reopening plan. Ninth grade students will be on campuses first, beginning Monday, March 8, with 10th-12th grade students returning Wednesday, March 10.

“This phased approach will allow our ninth grade students to have two days on campus without upper grade level students to get orientated to their new schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “For many of these students, it will be their first time in our high schools.”

Based on guidance released by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health, schools are encouraged to reopen for high school instruction when cases drop below 200 cases per one hundred thousand population over 14 days. That ratio, when applied to the Walla Walla and College Place communities, equates to approximately 115 new cases over a two-week period to enter the green stage, the same threshold the Walla Walla School Board and Walla Walla Valley Education Association agreed on to begin returning high school students back to campus. As of Feb. 22, combined case counts between the two jurisdictions were at the 110 mark and falling.

The district recently performed a 3rd party on-site safety audit at each secondary school site. The audit concluded the district had the safety protocols and processes in place to safely return to AM/PM hybrid in-person learning.

“This week we’ll begin addressing specific staff safety accommodations necessary and begin to communicate safety protocols and schedules to our families," said Superintendent Smith. “We are excited to welcome our high school students safely back on campus and appreciate the community for helping curb the spread of the virus by wearing masks, social distancing and limiting gatherings.”

The district will continue to monitor COVID cases closely and work with local health officials to continue keeping schools safe. To learn more about the district’s Safely Reopening Plans, please visit www.wwps.org.

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Attached Media Files: Wade_Smith.jpg
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Walla Walla Public Schools accepted to WA State Learn to Return COVID testing program - 02/24/21

WALLA WALLA – Walla Walla Public Schools will have access to free COVID-19 testing services for students and staff as part of the new Learn to Return partnership with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Health Commons. Test supplies and support are provided at no cost to the school district. Rapid results provide results within 15 minutes utilizing a self-administered, shallow nasal swab test. Additionally, the district will have access to a non-invasive saliva based PCR test, considered the “gold standard,” receiving results typically within 48 hours.  

“Testing is one critical element of an effective COVID response, allowing positive cases to be identified, isolated, and contact-traced,” said WWPS Director of Health Services Amy Ruff. “Everyone should be able to access a same-day test when needed, with a quick turnaround time, enabling prompt action to be taken.”

Ruff said there is tremendous value of testing within schools. “Offering testing to students and staff can give insights into virus prevalence in the school community, reduce anxiety of returning staff and students, and bolster community access so nobody is quarantined at home unnecessarily simply because they are unable to access a test.”

“Combined with other mitigation strategies, like practicing six feet of physical distancing, using face coverings, keeping students in smaller cohorts, maximizing/improving ventilation, and practicing good hygiene and disinfection habits, testing in schools will help build confidence in safer in-person learning,” said Ruff. “Our testing program will dramatically decrease the risk to our learning community and supports our ability to continue serving students in person.”

The Learn to Return program provides free access to tests for three primary purposes:

  1. A same-day diagnostic test for staff or students with symptoms or possible exposure.
  2. Access to diagnostic PCR testing, considered to be the “gold standard” for COVID identification.   
  3. Regular voluntary testing for school staff.

Walla Walla Public Schools plans to roll out its testing program by early March. Consent for testing will be required for all students, and will be available online and at each school.

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Attached Media Files: Amy_Ruff.jpg
Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Special Meeting: February 24, 2021 - 02/22/21

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997

Walla Walla Public Schools Bond Oversight Committee Meeting: February 23, 2021 - 02/19/21

In accordance with their duties to review the 2018 Bond program, a meeting of the WWPS Bond Oversight Committee will be held on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. via Online/Virtual Zoom Meeting.

Members of the public who wish to listen to the meeting via telephone may do so.  The call in number is 1-253-215-8782.  An access code is required and may be obtained ahead of time by contacting Susie Golden at 509-526-6715 or sgolden@wwps.org

Details are available via the following link:  http://www.wwps.org/bond/bond-oversight-committee

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Cummings named to head federally funded program targeting pandemic impact on student learning - 02/19/21

WALLA WALLA - Longtime district 21st Century Afterschool Program Director Brent Cummings has been promoted to Director of Supplemental Learning and Support for Walla Walla Public Schools effective March 1. In his temporary role which extends through next school year, Cummings will be tagged to manage the district’s portion of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund dollars. 

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on December 27, 2020 and provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund). ESSER II Fund awards to State Educational Agencies are in the same proportion as each State received funds under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, in fiscal year 2020.

“At the Feb. 16 School Board meeting, our Board identified the need for this critical position and recommended we move forward as soon as possible to fill this instrumental role,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “This temporary assignment will last through at least September 2022, as Mr. Cummings works with the school board, staff, parents, students and community partners to coordinate and implement programs to meet student learning gaps and other impacts resulting from the pandemic.”

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds have been allocated to help school districts across the nation restore and maintain high-quality learning environments, and to take comprehensive action to mitigate the unprecedented learning loss that many of America’s most vulnerable students have endured. School Board President Derek Sarley says he welcomes these federal funds as the district takes aim to address the extraordinarily challenging times students, educators and administrators have faced in absence of in-person instruction.

"Educators, students and parents have pushed themselves to the limits the last 12 months to keep learning happening, but we saw in our district data review this week where gaps have been opened that we need to close,” said Sarley. “The board is committed to using these precious federal dollars wisely and aggressively to support student learning, and we need someone who can give that job their full attention."

Cummings has held his current position for Walla Walla Public Schools since 2013. He spent the prior eight years as site coordinator for the Northwest Learning and Achievement Group which managed 21st Century Community Learning Center grants at Garrison Middle School. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana where he also earned All-Academic Honors while playing on the men’s basketball team. Cummings and his wife Audra, a Walla Walla High School graduate and former district teacher, have four young children. 

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South Central Region advances to Phase 2 paving way for return of high school sports - 02/18/21

District to launch live streaming video coverage of all home varsity athletic games

WALLA WALLA – Following nearly a one-year hiatus, Walla Walla High School coaches and athletes have been given the green light to resume competition this month following the announcement the South Central region advanced to Phase 2 of the state’s Roadmap to Recovery. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) Season One for high school sports includes football, slowpitch softball, cross country, girls soccer and volleyball. A full slate of games is scheduled to begin the week of February 22. 

The WIAA has implemented strict regulations for spectators to limit attendance at all high school sports competitions. For all Mid-Columbia Conference schools and events, only home spectators will be allowed admittance for Season One fall sports. Two tickets will be allocated for each rostered athlete in uniform for volleyball, slowpitch softball, girls soccer and freshman and junior varsity football.  For varsity football, two tickets per senior player and senior dance/cheer participant will be allocated.  No other spectators will be permitted and only current game rostered participants will be allowed at the event. These restrictions are required to comply with the strict spectator guidelines outlined by state guidance. 

“We know our community and fans want to come out and support our teams, but our main goal is allowing our student-athletes to resume competition and experience high school sports,” said District Athletic Director Dirk Hansen. “We have worked hard as a community, school district and athletic program to get back playing and I’m thrilled the students get to resume their passion of competing in high school sports.”

Walla Walla Public Schools is ramping up its live video streaming services through the Blue Devil Northwest program managed by the 21st Century Afterschool program. All home varsity games will be live streamed by Blue Devil Northwest and easily accessed on personal devices and streaming applications. Visit the Walla Walla High School Athletics website for game schedules and live streaming links: www.wallawallaathletics.com.

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Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Business Meeting & Executive Session: February 16, 2021 - 02/12/21

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997

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Third Party COVID Safety Review says district's secondary schools safe to allow in-person learning - 02/11/21

WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla Public Schools contracted with NV5/DADE MOELLER© to perform a comprehensive third party COVID Preparedness Review of middle and high schools in preparation for on-site learning. This is a follow-up to a similar review performed for the elementary schools in January 2021.

Stephen Bump, a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Health Professional from NV5, spent several hours performing on-site inspections Friday, Feb. 5 at Garrison Middle School, Pioneer Middle School, Lincoln High School, Walla Walla High School and SEATech. He had the following to say in his written report to the school district.

“Our review indicates the Walla Walla School District has implemented the health agency guidance and has adequate controls and protocols in place to allow in-person learning at secondary schools in a safe and healthy environment,” as noted in Mr. Bump’s executive summary of the review. “We confirmed that the documents and protocols developed by the district were consistent with the guidance promulgated by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Washington State Department of Health, and the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health."

The audit included a review of facility and personnel practices against the latest CDC and WaDOH guidance on re-opening schools, to ensure campuses, HVAC modifications and COVID protocols are compliant with the latest standards. Additionally, it incorporated a review of physical areas, employee work arrangements and administrative controls to ensure necessary protocols are in place to minimize exposure to pathogens for staff and students.

The audit included a two-phased review process. During the Phase 1 audit, certified staff from NV5 performed a comprehensive review of all district protocols against the latest WaDOH, CDC and L&I guidelines. Cleaning protocols, masking and other PPE standards, COVID response protocols, staff training and other practices were reviewed. Their findings indicated that all of the district’s protocols met, and in many cases, exceeded safety guidelines. During the Phase 2 audit, thorough on-site inspections of district facilities were performed.

Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith says this comprehensive third party audit ensures the district has fully reviewed and implemented all safety protocols and procedures recommended from state health officials and industry experts.

“This serves as an additional layer of protection for all staff, students and parents and is part of our continued commitment to keep students and staff safe,” said Dr. Smith. “Safety has been, and will continue to be, our top priority, and the results from our third party safety audit spoke to all of our staff members’ hard work.”

Walla Walla Public Schools will begin transitioning 6th grade students back for AM/PM hybrid in-person learning Tuesday, Feb. 16 with 7th and 8th graders returning using the same instructional model Thursday, Feb. 18. The district is closely monitoring local COVID cases and will return high school students to AM/PM hybrid in-person learning as soon as state recommended COVID case targets are met.

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Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Special Meeting/School Board Retreat: February 11, 2021 - 02/10/21

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997

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Scholarship award supports bilingual staff pursuing administrative careers in education - 02/09/21

WALLA WALLA – Walla Walla Public Schools announces Amy Kasenga, Cesar Hernandez and Claudia Salazar have received the Director/a del Futuro scholarships for bilingual certificated staff pursuing careers in administration. Each of these outstanding educators will receive $1,500 scholarships to assist their pursuit of administrative credentials.

This program supports the district’s priority of increasing the number of bilingual administrators across its campuses. Kasenga is a Spanish Language Arts teacher at Garrison Middle School, Hernandez is an assistant principal at Green Park Elementary and Garrison Middle School and Salazar is a Spanish Language Arts teacher at Pioneer Middle School.

“These recipients are excellent teacher leaders who are working to further develop their leadership skills and credentials,” said Director of Human Resources Liz Campeau. “We are pleased to support their pursuit of a career in leadership.”

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District sets date for middle school return to in-person learning - 02/03/21

WALLA WALLA – Following nearly a one-year break from in-person learning amidst the COVID pandemic, middle school students will begin returning to campuses Tuesday, Feb. 16 utilizing the AM/PM hybrid model.

A steady decline in local COVID cases over the past six weeks according to data provided by the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health allowed the district to shift to the yellow stage of its reopening plan. Sixth grade students will be on campuses first, beginning Feb. 16, with 7th and 8th grade students returning Thursday, Feb. 18.

“This phased approach will allow our sixth grade students to have two days on campus without upper grade level students to get orientated to their new schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “For many of these students, it will be their first time in our middle schools.”

Based on guidance released by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health, schools are encouraged to reopen for middle school instruction when cases drop below 350 cases per one hundred thousand population over 14 days. That ratio, when applied to the Walla Walla and College Place communities, equates to approximately 200 new cases over a two-week period, the same threshold the Walla Walla School Board and Walla Walla Valley Education Association agreed on to begin returning middle school students back to campus. As of Feb. 1, combined case counts between the two jurisdictions were at the 200 mark.

"This week the district will perform its 3rd party on-site safety audit at each middle school site, address specific staff safety accommodations necessary and begin to communicate safety protocols and schedules to our families," said Superintendent Smith. “We are excited to welcome our middle school students safely back on campus and appreciate the community for helping curb the spread of the virus by wearing masks, social distancing and limiting gatherings.”

The district will continue to monitor COVID cases closely and work with local health officials as it eyes returning high school students to campus once state recommended targets are met. To learn more about the district’s Safely Reopening Plans, please visit www.wwps.org.

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Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Study Meeting & Executive Session: February 2, 2021 - 01/29/21

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997

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School board to review middle school in-person learning plans as new COVID-19 cases decline   - 01/29/21

WALLA WALLA – School board members will meet Feb. 2 to review community COVID-19 case data to determine if thresholds have been met to begin transitioning middle school students back to in-person learning. 

Data provided by the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health reveals COVID-19 disease rates have significantly improved since the holiday season. Based on guidance released by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health, schools are encouraged to reopen for middle school instruction when cases drop below 350 cases per one hundred thousand population over 14 days. That ratio, when applied to the Walla Walla and College Place communities, equates to 200 new cases over a two-week period, the same threshold the Walla Walla School Board and Walla Walla Valley Education Association agreed on to begin returning middle school students back to campus.

As of January 26, combined case counts between the two jurisdictions were at 209, just above the 200 mark. An updated report from county officials is expected Monday. 

"If updated case counts meet the board's threshold we could begin transitioning back middle school students in about two weeks’ time," notes Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. "This transition window allows families time to adjust schedules. It also allows the district time to perform its 3rd party on-site safety audit at each site, address specific staff safety accommodations, and communicate safety protocols and schedules to our families."

School board meeting information is located on the district's website:
•    https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997

School Board Regular Study Meeting Details
•    Tuesday, Feb. 2
•    5:30 p.m. (meeting open to the public virtually)
•    Watch:  https://wwps-org.zoom.us/j/96377543811
•    Listen:  Dial 1-253-215-8782 and enter the Webinar ID: 963 7754 3811
•    Spanish Access:
-    Subtítulos en español:  https://wwps-org.zoom.us/j/96377543811  (Seleccione "Live Translation" en el menú inferior). 
-    Agenda española:  https://www.wwps.org/district/information/school-board/board-meeting-schedule

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