Schools Across the State of Washington Close, But Learning Continues in the Methow Valley

Courageous - Illustration of a girl swinging on a ropeYesterday,at 2:38 pm, Governor Inslee issued an executive order, closing “on-site”instruction at all schools across the State of Washington during the remainder of the 2020 school year, citing concerns about losing the gains that have been made to flatten the peak of the virus. 

A Deep Sense of Loss

Following the announcement, I shared this information with members of the MVSD school board, administrative team and staff. Like many of you, the news did not come as a surprise, but it didn’t make it any easier. The loss we are all experiencing is real, especially for our graduating seniors.

MVSD Athletics and Activities Director, Michael Wilbur captured the harsh reality and grief associated with the decision to close schools by stating, “For our high school seniors, there will be no next year. This is a heavy blow for this great group of young people; my heart goes out especially to them. It has been an honor and privilege to watch them perform in the classroom and in competition over the years, as this is a class that includes some of the best young men and women I’ve ever met. I am saddened to know that I won’t be able to watch them represent Liberty Bell again, and sure that my sense of loss is nothing compared to theirs.” 

Moving Forward

At the same time, we recognize these are unprecedented times where the health and wellness, and in some cases, the lives of individuals are at stake, requiring difficult decisions. Working within this mindset, we support science-driven decisions made by our public health officials, Governor, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction. While schools across Washington are closed, unable to support the many traditions and face-to-face interactions that would otherwise be taking place daily, learning continues…  

When asked what this looks like moving forward, MVE Principal, Paul Gutzler was the first to respond, stating, “After watching the press conference, my biggest takeaway is…’We got this.’ Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, and questions unanswered, but all the work we have done the last month has prepared us for this situation. Similar to the work we did in advance of a potential school closure, our continued work (since March 13) has prepared us for the possibility of a prolonged closure.” He went on to add, “Now we know… And most importantly, both in the building, the district, and the community (parents most importantly), we have the right people in the right places to make the best of a difficult situation.” 

With Challenge, Comes Opportunity

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Certainly, a prolonged closure spanning over the course of the next two months will present significant challenges that cannot be overstated. Faced with a problem that seems to change not only by the day, but by the hour, we have been challenged to redefine some of the ways that our schools have traditionally operated in support of student learning during the past 150 years.

Liberty Bell Jr.-Sr. High School Principal stated, “With challenge, comes opportunity. While we can’t replicate what takes place through a face-to-face interaction with a teacher or mentor, we have an exceptional staff that has embraced the challenge and is poised to work with students and parents to cultivate meaningful learning experiences for students remotely.”  

As we think about the problem, the challenges, and the opportunities, some of the many questions include: 

  • What does continuous learning within a standards-based or competency-based model of instruction look and sound like using a remote learning platform?
  • Can we ensure all students have access to the devices, internet connectivity, high quality resources, and supports needed to be successful in their learning?
  • How will students receive meaningful feedback?
  • How will student learning be measured across all grades K-12?
  • Will high school students receive grades?
  • How do we address the social-emotional needs of our youth during a period of isolation? 
  • What might graduation look like for this year’s graduating seniors?
  • Will essential services such as meal services and childcare continue into the summer?
  • Is there State and/or Federal funding available to support summer programming?
  • Might this situation continue into the fall?

Looking Forward

As you can imagine, the list of questions goes on and on…  These are just some of the many questions that we’ve been asking ourselves at all points along the way in anticipation of a possible closure. We’ve made significant progress in a short period of time. Yet, as we look forward through a lens of “Innovation and Flexibility,” we recognize it will be messy work.

As Sara Mounsey, ILC Principal stated, “Like any form of learning (intellectual, physical, social-emotional, spiritual), it will not be perfect, rather a process of failing forward. It will require patience on the part of all involved – students, parents, and teachers alike. That being said, I can’t imagine a better place to be or a better team (students, parents,staff, and community members) than the Methow Valley during such a difficult and uncertain period of time.” 

Building On Our Strength

As we push forward, let’s not forget to look back and remember who we are, the Methow Valley – A resilient, resourceful, caring, and compassionate community that cares deeply about its youth and one another. Fires, floods, a worldwide pandemic… This is when we’re at our best! 

We’ve got this!

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School Board Meeting • Thursday, September 24 @ 5:30 PM • Join via Zoom