The Northshore School District, north of Seattle, announced to parents that it has decided to “pause” the online learning model that had been taking place since the beginning of the week, after the district closed its schools due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The reason given was the district’s inability to provide equitable services to all students. While the Northshore announcement didn’t specify the nature of the inequities, a few areas were listed, including special education and English language learning services, as well as food and childcare.
“Here in Northshore, while we have been able to mitigate several of these challenges, we have not yet been able to mitigate all of them and meet the strict guidelines outlined in federal and state regulations,” said Dr. Michelle Reid, superintendent of the district.
She also said she is working with State Superintendent Chris Reykdal in order to “review and where possible refine recommendations so that we can move forward with an educational delivery model that is both compliant and sustainable.”
The announcement came before Gov. Jay Inslee mandated the closure of all schools throughout the state this afternoon. Reykdal, who spoke at the press conference announcing school closures, said he expects all school districts to come up with plans to meet the needs of all students, and encouraged them to be creative in developing distance learning plans.
Northshore’s Reid emphasized that this was not a permanent cancellation of online learning, but rather a break to identify the problems and work on solutions. She promised more details on the “next iteration” to parents over the weekend.
A number of families requiring special education services brought up issues with the Northshore model throughout the week, such as a lack of assistive technologies and services of in-person paraeducators that have prevented their students from being able to effectively learn in the online model. The district had implemented a program for families who needed lunches, and opened two childcare sites, though there were limited spaces and a daily fee for the care.
The online learning model, dubbed Classroom to Cloud, began on March 9 after the district was able to distribute computers or tablets and WiFi hotspot devices to any students who needed them. It was the first program of its type to be implemented in the region.