8,800 — that’s how many students and teachers will not be attending school for over a month on the Plateau.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made the decision to close all public and private schools in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties on March 12, stipulating that all schools must be closed by yesterday (March 17) through April 24. He extended his order to all Washington schools on March 13.
This puts many Black Diamond, Enumclaw, and Buckley families in a bind, as many working families may be forced to rearrange their work schedules to now accommodate their children; others are likely worried about their food and financial situations, as an estimated 2,500 children on the Plateau receive free or reduced-price meals.
The Enumclaw and White River school districts quickly informed students and their families of their plans, from making sure seniors will meet requirements to graduate on time to ensuring meals will continue to be provided to those in need.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has decided to waive the normally-mandated 180-school days and 1,080 instructional hours necessary for basic education, which means it’s very likely Enumclaw and White River will not need to extend the school year past June 19. Additionally, OSPI is waiving all state testing for the year.
On March 13, Enumclaw School District Mike Nelson emailed Hornet families a detailed plan of what his district will be doing for the foreseeable future, and the district officially closed March 17.
Food and meal deliveries topped the list; school employees will still prepare a combined breakfast and lunch sack for not just students, but their younger siblings not yet enrolled, on a daily basis. This program starts today, March 18, and food can be picked up between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Black Diamond elementary, Enumclaw High, and the Enumclaw library, until April 24. Nelson stressed this is a free program for all, not just those who need free or reduced-price meals.
Families further out in the Greenwater and Selleck areas will be contacted next week to determine if they need meals delivered out there as well, and to arrange a schedule. Families in these outlying areas can call Tracy Holyan at 360-802-7715 to request delivery.
Those that may need additional food aid are encouraged to use the Plateau Outreach Ministry’s food bank, which will be open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Instead of walking into the bank to pick food items as usual, POM has organized a drive-through style service in the alleyway between Cole Street and Wells Street. Anyone new to the food bank will be required to fill out a one-page form.
As for childcare, the situation looks a little bleak.
“For the past several days, we have outreached to the city of Enumclaw, local daycare centers and the Plateau Ministerial Association seeking partnership in providing a list of possible childcare opportunities,” the email reads. “We are discovering our local daycare centers are either at capacity or are considering the need to close.”
In lieu of immediate large-scale options, the school district is issuing an electronic survey to all families about what their childcare needs are; the survey can be accessed at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfGxO6o4k8F1-JfAaIph9eQWzLz9nVJXCGa2t3172h462N3lg/viewform?usp=sf_link.
ESD is also in the midst of organizing some interim childcare by working with the Enumclaw Parks Department and its Camp Commotion — usually a summer activity option for students — at J.J. Smith Elementary. Unfortunately, with the CDC recommending avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, this could throw a wrench into the school district’s plans.
If the camp is able to open, registration information will be found on the ESD website; Enumclaw Parks Director Michelle Larson said she plans to give priority to the children of healthcare workers and first responders before opening it up to the public.
Local high school and college students are also stepping up, offering their services as babysitters while their classes are canceled as well. Contact Lu Blair at 253-261-9365 for more information.
As for what kids will be learning over this unexpected break, the district plans to offer optional weekly online and hard-copy “enrichment opportunities”, which will be available to be picked up at school locations. More details about these opportunities will be made public in the near future, the district said.
Additionally, the district plans to move forward with all senior activities that are scheduled for after April, and said it will work to ensure high school seniors can graduate on time.
Buildings will be staffed in order to answer phone calls from students, parents, and guardians starting today, March 18.
The White River School District also opted to stop operations on Monday, March 16, the same day their food service plan went into effect. All students, plus younger siblings not yet enrolled as a Hornet, may receive a free meal.
The district will continue to serve daily meals for students at various locations around Buckley. Meals can be picked up at Mountain Meadow Elementary, Elk Ridge Elementary, Foothills Elementary, Wilkeson Elementary, Glacier Middle School, and White River High School between 11 a.m. and noon; students must be present to pick up a meal.
Additionally, food will be delivered to various places in the area with varying pickup times: the Buckley Youth Activity Center (11 to 11:15 a.m.); the Wickersham School of Discovery (11:30 to 11:45 a.m.); the Prairie Ridge Community Center (11 to 11:15 a.m.); and the Quiet Meadows living community (11:30 to 11:45 a.m.).
As for continuing education for this extended closure, the district is moving to online classes for all grades, despite OSPI strongly recommending districts do not do so unless they can meet stringent equity considerations, proper teacher training, ensure device security, and continuing to support Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
“This situation is new ground for everyone, and we know that OSPI is still working through their end, but here in White River having learning stop for six weeks is just not an option,” Assistant Superintendent Mike Hagadone wrote in an email.
Students in grades 2 through 12 will be sent home with a Chromebook laptop, and teachers will be utilizing Google Classroom to continue lessons; further details will be provided by students’ teachers. Students in pre-K through grade 1 will not use the laptops, and will instead receive weekly learning packets.
In terms of childcare, WRSD’s Director of Equity and Achievement Steve Leifsen said the school has been surveying their families and plan to use staff to run two child-care programs at the White River Learning Center and Mountain Meadow Elementary School.
Leifsen said childcare is being prioritized for healthcare workers and first responders, and that families have been sent registration information. For more information, call the school district at 360-829-0600.