Update from Elma School Board

Letter from Elma School Board
Posted on 05/16/2021

Letter from the Elma School Board Regarding Changes to In-Person Instruction for Secondary Schools


In efforts to help students, parents and our community better understand the recent decision to return the high school to a 2 day a week model, we would like to provide some additional information. We know there is a wide range of emotions being felt and expressed; some are confused, some frustrated, some relieved, some discouraged and most of us are a mixture of it all!


The decision to move back to a hybrid model at the high school was made based on 2 factors; one was state guidance and the other was the safety and well-being of our students. These are the same two factors we have used to balance every previous decision made across this tumultuous last 15 months.

  1. Using the state guidance as the overarching standard, our school board, administration and the 3 union groups created agreements for working conditions making our (MOU’s) the least restrictive as possible for allowing in-person instruction, while still ensuring the safety of all our employees represented and the students they serve. The fact that our MOU agreements are based on the state guidance is what has allowed our district to return to in-person earlier than many districts. The cooperative spirit of the MOU’s has been a key for our kids getting as much in person instruction as they have.


    Unfortunately, there has been a recent increase of COVID activity in our community and our guidance dictates a return to six feet of distancing for secondary schools. In early May, Grays Harbor rose above 200 per 100,000 with the projection data showing over 300 very soon. Based on this data, unless there was a significant and unforeseen shift in data, Monday, May 24th, will require that we move to six feet of separation to comply with the state guidelines which, again, our district MOU’s align to.  


  2. Relationally, this decision was also made with the emotions and experiences of students in mind, specifically the seniors. While there were contractual issues to consider, the personal world of our upcoming graduates carried significant weight in the final determination.


Previously, our school board, when considering each stage and possibility of returning students to instruction, has held an overall belief and leaned on a principle of having as much in-person instruction as possible within the guidelines. If there was an opportunity to bring students to the classroom, the board and district at large has pushed this line as much as possible. We all believe that students do their best learning and living while school is as normal as possible.


Knowing that with the 3-foot social distancing configuration, many more students would be impacted by a single positive case at school, a robust discussion led to the determination that there would need to be a decrease of in-person instruction to increase the probability that NO student- simply by attending class- would be deemed a “close contact” and excluded for up to 14 days of all school and extracurricular activities. An exclusion as such could jeopardize participation in graduation. By moving the high school back to 6 feet, the board ultimately decided it was the best way of eliminating potential close contacts and the negative consequences that go along with it.


Since the decision was made Wednesday evening, 2 other pieces of information came forward that were not anticipated that need to be shared.


  • The CDC and governor reduced mask wearing restrictions. As of now school guidance has not changed, but we await an update in regards to this decision. While those national and state level decisions are confusing in light of the decision to reduce in-person instruction, we are all hopeful this speaks to the overall trend that state-wide, nationally and globally, life as we know it can return closer to normal.


  • Recent changes in state guidance now puts the middle school under the same secondary umbrella, which would require a return to a hybrid model to allow for the needed 6-foot distancing. It is important to note, the elementary school is not impacted by these same data points. We are working closely with the union groups and hoping that a dip in the data could result in the continuation of 4 day a week instruction. The determination of the middle school configuration will be made by Wednesday, May 19th.


We know this was a lot to read but we feel it is imperative our community understands the factors affecting the decisions that are made. While there may be disagreement about the decision, we feel knowledge is empowering.


Aside from all the information above, we want to make sure parents and students know additional support is still available for those who are struggling. Even in a hybrid model, students can attend school additional days, participate in afterschool tutoring, come Fridays to meet with teachers or access a number of other supports. Please don’t hesitate to contact your student’s school to make arrangements.


This has been an excruciating year for everyone, but we are proud to be part of the dedicated, committed and caring village we all call home.


Our Best Regards, 


Elma School Board of Directors

Jamie Bailey

Bernadette Bower

Ryan Cristelli

Stephanie Smith

Jody Thompson

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