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Board considers bringing PreK-2 students back by transitioning to Yellow Stage based on recent viral trends (Photo) - 09/17/20

WALLA WALLA – The school board has scheduled a special board meeting Sept. 29 to review data and make a decision on transitioning to the Yellow Stage of the district’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools based on an update from the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health. If the school board approves the transition to the Yellow Stage, the district will implement their Pk-2nd grade hybrid model for in-person instruction on Oct. 19 as approved by County officials. Communicated with parents prior to the start of school, most students would attend either a morning or afternoon session for face-to-face instruction, and receive their remaining learning remotely in order to comply with strict social distancing guidelines. A limited number of pre-identified students who receive special education, English learners and other remediation supports may be provided a full day experience on a case-by-case basis while in the Yellow Stage.

In a letter to Walla Walla County school administrators sent Sept. 17, Walla Walla County Department of Community Health (DCH) officials reported they have been monitoring COVID-19 disease activity throughout the county. Disease activity, as indicated by new cases/100,000 population over 14 days, has been decreasing over the past month, warranting a new recommendation on hybrid learning.

At this time, the overall Walla Walla County disease activity, and the City of Walla Walla, remain above the WA DOH recommendation, but rates have been steadily dropping throughout the last month. If current trends continue, local health experts project rates across the county will continue to drop below the DOH recommended benchmark by the middle of October. If rates reach 45 cases or less over a two-week period, this will permit WWPS to begin transitioning back their youngest learners as soon as October 19. 

“Advancing to the hybrid learning model is not expected to pose a significantly greater risk to staff and students than their current activities,” said Larry Jecha, M.D./MPH Health Officer, Walla Walla County. “A Hybrid mode permits schools to provide in-person instruction at roughly 50% capacity.”  

If viral counts permit, and the Board approves transition to the Yellow Stage, the district plans to communicate schedules, bussing and other health-related protocols to Prek-2nd grade families the week of October 5. Once viral conditions dip below 30 cases or less over a two-week period, WWPS would then be in a position to bring back all students under their hybrid-learning plan. More information regarding the district’s Safely Reopening Schools Plan can be found on their website here: https://www.wwps.org/safely-reopening-schools  

“These dates allow sufficient time to continue to monitor disease activity through the end of September to ensure that it will not escalate significantly,” said Dr. Jecha. “Strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, according to state and local guidance, including use of face coverings and physical/social distancing will be necessary to ensure that students and staff are able to return safely.”

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Melito Ramirez named 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year (Photo) - 09/15/20

WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla High School Intervention Specialist Melito Ramirez has dedicated the past four decades working professionally to support students and families and was honored for his career being named the 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year. 

2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year Melito Ramirez has spent the past 12 years as an Intervention Specialist for Walla Walla Public Schools. As a child Ramirez grew up in a migrant family traveling from Texas to California, Washington and other western states seeking agricultural employment.  He began his career in the College Place School District in 1980 working to improve communication and support to migrant families living in the area.  In his current role as an Intervention Specialist, Ramirez works with students facing social-emotional barriers, including depression, social and emotional concerns, substance addiction and poverty. He works to support these students by building relationships, keeping communication flowing between students, their family and their teachers, and providing support to students who need help working toward graduation.

“Melito models, through belief and action, our district’s core commitments around equity, access and engagement,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “He is a mentor and role model for so many students, providing resources, support and encouragement. 

Ramirez says his love for the community and helping people is what fuels his passion.

“I didn’t get into this line of work to get recognition or to make millions of dollars,” said Ramirez. “I get my inspiration by working with students and helping them realize their dreams. It’s satisfying seeing so many school district staff who I supported as they were growing up being successful in their careers and raising their own families.”

One of his former students is Marilyn Melgoza who was recently named Wa-Hi ASB Advisor and also works in the Equity and Dual Programs Department as an outreach specialist.  

“Melito constantly reminded me the work we do is for our people and our communities,” said Melgoza. “He always encouraged me to be my authentic self, share my truth, share my story, and be a voice for others. The way students and families talk about the trust they have in Melito is powerful, it is inspiring, and it must be recognized!”

Ramirez is a gifted communicator who has a natural ability to identify and close gaps in his community. He specializes in working with migrant families with backgrounds similar to his own. He maintains a leadership position in an adult evening school that helps adults improve their English skills, learn first aid, gain citizenship and develop viticulture skills. He also gives back to the community by serving on the College Place School District Board of Directors. 

“It is safe to say that Melito’s influence has been instrumental in our district’s ability to close the graduation and dropout gap for Latino students,” said Superintendent Smith. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this incredible recognition.”

Ramirez will continue on to the national competition being the first Washington Classified School Employee of the Year to compete for the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) award, administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Attached Media Files: Melito_Ramirez.jpg
Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Business Meeting: September 15, 2020 - 09/11/20

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

U.S. Department of Agriculture extends free meal program - 09/03/20

WALLA WALLA - This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended the free meal program through December to help ensure all children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, all meals will be free for all children ages 1-18 years. This includes children not enrolled in school. Parents and guardians may pick up meals for their children.

During distance learning, Walla Walla Public Schools is handing out meals Monday through Friday at several school and community locations from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The district will deploy two school buses daily from 12 noon to 1 p.m. at several bus stop route locations across the community. All meals are “Grab & Go” and include lunch and the next day’s breakfast. Please wear face masks or face coverings when picking up meals.

“Grab & Go” Meal Pick Up locations:
Starting Sept. 8
• Berney Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Edison Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Garrison Middle School (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Green Park Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Prospect Point Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Sharpstein Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Starting Sept. 14 (in addition to the locations listed above)
• Washington Park (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Lincoln High School (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

• Bus Route One: (please arrive five minutes early)
- 12 noon: Corner for N. Touchet and E. Cherry St.
- 12:10 p.m.: Corner of J. St. and N. Roosevelt St.
- 12:20 p.m.: Vista Terrace Park
- 12:30 p.m.: 2815 Melrose Trailer Park
- 12:40 p.m.: Middle of block between Tausick Way and Garden St.

• Bus Route Two: (please arrive five minutes early)
- 12 noon: The corner of Lodge and Sunset Dr.
- 12:10 p.m.: The corner of Chase and Eagan
- 12:20 p.m.: 11th Ave. Middle of block between Main and Alder
- 12:25 p.m.: 11th Ave. Middle of block between Birch and Willow
- 12:35 p.m.: 11 Ave. and Edith Ave.
- 12:45 p.m.: Corner of W. Moore St. and 8th Ave.

Nutrition Services Director Pamela Milleson reminds parents it is important to be ready for the time when the district is back to its regular meal program by continuing to submit Free & Reduced price meal applications.

Questions:

Pamela Milleson: pmilleson@wwps.org  /  509.527.3016

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Study Meeting: September 1, 2020 - 08/28/20

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

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Local contractor to land Pioneer Middle School renovation project -- more local subcontractors secure work at Wa-Hi (Photo) - 08/25/20

WALLA WALLA - Recent bid openings for Walla Walla High School and Pioneer Middle School renovations continue to spell good news for many Walla Walla businesses. Local contractor Jackson Contractor Group, Inc. followed-up last year’s successful bid to be the general contractor for Walla Walla High School as the apparent low bidder for the Pioneer Middle School renovation project. Additionally, many local subcontractors are set to secure substantial portions of the Wa-Hi improvements slated over the next two years.

Jackson competed with seven other bidders for the Pioneer renovation project, set to renovate the 1950s structure resulting from the $65.6M school construction bond overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2018. Jackson Contractor Group, Inc. edged out Central Oregon's Kirby Nagelhout with a bid of $19.39M compared to $19.54M.

"In my 20 years of overseeing many large-scale construction projects for multiple districts, this was the greatest turnout and one of the closest bid-day contests I have experienced," said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. "We were so delighted to see such great interest from general contractors and even happier to see the project awarded to another firm with a substantial Walla Walla footprint."

At the high school, as the new science building and underground utility improvements near completion, the district is set to begin substantial facility improvements across the campus. The high school project, delivered under the GC/CM (General Contractor/Construction Manager) model, allowed the district to break up and competitively bid each of the components of the project into approximately 50 different packages. "The utilization of GC/CM allows us to phase and package the components of the project, maximizing the opportunity for local contractor involvement among other benefits," noted Smith. "While it made for a long bid opening process, where nearly 100 bids were opened, it appears to have been a very successful day for many local Walla Walla businesses."

While contracts with subcontractors cannot be issued for another week due to state match processing, many local businesses appear to have been successful following bid opening. Local companies Houk Masonry, Gillespie Roofing, Cutting Edge Plumbing and Jackson Contractor Group, Inc. were some of the apparent low bidders, bringing tens of millions worth of work home to local contractors and vendors.

Bids for both the Pioneer and Wa-Hi improvements, supervised and reviewed by the district’s community-led Bond Oversight Committee, came in on budget and in line with estimates. As soon as state processing procedures are complete, the district will immediately begin renovation work on both campuses. At Wa-Hi, consistent with the phased approach, work will begin immediately on the old science building, the fine arts addition, fitness addition, and culinary, art and pottery improvements. At Pioneer, renovation of the original 1950’s wing and core area will be the first addressed.

For more information, including access to live construction cameras and project renderings, visit the district’s bond web page at www.wwpsbond.org.

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Attached Media Files: Wade_Smith.jpg