As we reflect on all we have lost over the past year — the people, the time together, the opportunities, the stability — we celebrate, too, all we have gained.
One year ago, we spent our last hours all together in our sites and centers. We didn’t wear masks, or complete attestations, or worry whether the person behind us in line at the grocery store was in fact six feet away.
When the news came that we’d be working from home, it was novel, perhaps even welcome. It could be nice, we thought. It’s just for a week or two, until the cases go down.
But the cases didn’t go down. Instead, 100 cases a day became 200, and 200 became 500, and 500 became 5,000. The week or two we had once predicted stretched on, and we transitioned to remote and hybrid work plans in nearly all departments.
One year later, our staff have done the impossible. We’ve learned new platforms, connected with new clients, and developed new teaching methods as we face a new normal.
We’ve also kept true to our hopes and goals for our region and ourselves.
Developing Regional Partnerships
Departments across the agency collaborated with local and regional partners to support districts through attestation, testing, resource-mapping, and networking programs.
- Attestations: ESD 113 partnered with WSIPC, other ESDs, and Qualtrics to provide a daily symptom checker for 60 districts statewide. Digital Communications Administrator Cindy Jouper has led statewide efforts to develop and maintain the attestation system.
This system remains especially important as districts move to hybrid and in-person learning. Schools use the information provided by students and staff on the form to track outbreaks of COVID and assist with contact tracing.
- Testing: Staff and students enrolled at Capital Region ESD 113, or at North Thurston, Olympia, Rochester, and Tumwater school districts may receive a free COVID-19 test at our Tyee site beginning in March 2021.
Through a cooperative with North Thurston, Olympia, Rochester, and Tumwater, symptomatic staff and students are able to receive a drive-thru, self-administered test. Testing helps coop members to identify and prevent potential outbreaks.
- Resource mapping: In 2016, nearly 46 percent of Washington students were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch. With the shift to remote learning for students and increased unemployment among families, these programs were more important than ever in making sure Washington students stayed healthy and safe. When schools shut down last spring, many created new systems to distribute meals to students.
Some districts also provided childcare services for children of essential workers and first responders unable to work from home during the pandemic. ESD 113 and the AESD gathered information from districts across the state to create an online resource map.
We also linked with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to provide information about open child care centers and updated this information daily.
- Networking: Several departments developed new networks or transitioned existing networking events online.
Our Special Education, Ed Tech, Human Resources, and Communications departments were leaders in helping our region become more connected than ever before.
Providing Districts with Tools for Safety and Student Success
As districts prepared to return to hybrid or in-person learning, ESD 113 partnered with Olympic ESD 114 and the AESD to provide N95 fit test services and PPE ordering and distribution. ESD 113 also provided hundreds of hours of training and professional development to educators and community partners and distributed STEM kits across the region.
- N95 fit test services: Regional school nursing staff faced lengthy waits for fit testing services at local vendors, so ESD 113 and OESD 114 workers’ compensation programs teamed up to become fit-test certified.
Safety and Health Administrator Bob Pierce has fit tested more than 200 employees in the Worker’s Compensation Trust’s 46 member districts since November 2020. The Worker’s Compensation Trust continues to offer fit test opportunities in 2021.
- PPE program: As the pandemic continued to rage across Washington state, the role of PPE became clear in slowing the spread of the virus. Many districts already facing increased costs were unable to fund the PPE they desperately needed to protect staff and students.
In March 2020, ESD 112 stepped forward on behalf of the AESD to oversee the statewide cooperative purchasing process. Through this process, schools and districts were able to access PPE at a fraction of the cost.
Facilities Manager Ed Otos and his team have gathered PPE for 45 districts and private schools across our region. Nearly 1,000,000 units of supplies have been ordered and delivered to districts.
- Student Threat Assessment: Since March 2020, Student Threat Assessment Coordinator Dan Beaudoin and his team have trained 203 administrators, counselors, SROs, and others on Level 1 Student Threat Assessment.
The Student Threat Assessment team has also trained 47 district administrators, counselors, juvenile Justice, law enforcement and mental health personnel in community-based Level 2 Student Threat Assessment.
The Level 2 team for Thurston and Mason counties now meets biweekly to support Student Threat Assessments across their region.
- Teaching & Learning. Our Teaching & Learning Department offered hundreds of virtual trainings and professional development opportunities to educators statewide in the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years.
We provide training in learning management systems, pedagogy, resilience, social emotional learning, and more. Many courses are available to ESD 113 for educators for free or at a low cost.
- STEM Network: Scott Killough and his team distributed 24,000 individually bagged “take-home” science kits to districts this year.
The STEM Network helps schools and districts reduce costs and access high-quality materials for STEM lessons.
Supporting Regional Communications Efforts
The Communications Department has collaborated with PSESD and other partners across the AESD to support school communications and gather information for OSPI.
- Statewide surveys. ESD 113 developed a survey tool to collect and categorize questions from school districts statewide. These questions are shared with OSPI to help shape the information they share in their regular statewide webinars.
- Reopening WA Schools. Senior Communications Director Kristen Jaudon and Senior Communications Specialist Megan Temple partnered with PSESD to help our regions communicate about changes to the school environment as we prepared for fall.
Jaudon and Temple developed communications plans, social media campaigns, and more to help districts prepare for the 2020–21 school year. The Reopening WA Schools website has since been shared with agencies and districts across the state and rebranded under the AESD umbrella.
Keeping School in Session
Staff in our Gravity, True North, Olympic Academy, and Sound to Harbor programs have continued to serve students and families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Gravity: Gravity has served more than 600 students across its six sites during the 2020–21 school year. 42 students have earned their GEDs since the start of the year.
- True North: True North expanded its services during the pandemic to reach more students across the region.
True North began delivering telehealth and other virtual services in May 2020. After obtaining licensure in Lewis County, True North added mental health services at Olympic Academy and Centralia Middle School.
Staff from True North supported districts with crisis response events and partnered with speakers and experts in mental health to offer training for staff and districts.
Staff also created resources to support students, families, and educators as they navigated the stressors of our new normal. Navigators created programs to deliver meals, information, and other resources to families through partnerships with community organizations.
- Olympic Academy: Olympic Academy staff spent the summer preparing guidelines and safety measures for reopening and was one of the first schools in the region to open fully in September 2020.
“The students have followed all of the guidelines like they’ve been doing it their whole lives,” Director Chuck Fleming said. “ They were all thrilled to be here and wanted to do anything that they could to stay—even wear masks and wash their hands an unthinkable amount of times in a day. They have taken the changes in stride and have continued to grow in our program.”
Thanks to its extensive safety protocols designed to protect both students and staff, no COVID-19 transmission has occurred in the OA program.
- 21st Century: Student Support Coordinator Nicoe King and her team have found innovative ways to support families throughout the pandemic.
In Shelton, the Hope Garden at Evergreen Elementary became a living classroom. Students and families were able to take virtual and in-person visits to the garden, and the produce grown in the garden was donated to the local food bank and given to community members.
During the 21st Century summer program, 50 produce food boxes were distributed weekly to after-school participants when they came to pick up supplies.
Student support coordinators distributed 500 backpacks to students in our region. Each backpack was filled with information and activities in English and Spanish to support wellness and behavioral health.