by Jessica Werner
I’m tired. Are you? What a time we are (still) navigating. While the plan at our house continues to be that our 11-year-old son will begin middle school (not yet vaccinated, but masked up) on September 1, the ever-evolving pandemic and the new risks with the Delta variant are making us much more wary of what the fall will look like.
While we are each navigating our own (and our families’) comfort levels and personal responsibilities around risk, we are also making decisions for our programs, for our organizations, and for our communities. Decision fatigue is real, and we hope that you are able to step away, engage in mindfulness practices, and reach out to your colleagues and community for support as we continue to move through the storm. Engage with your whole staff team as you make decisions about keeping programs and staff meetings remote or in-person, when to return to office, or when to pause a program altogether. The pandemic has exacerbated inequities, and we know that people — including our teams — will have differing needs, but ensuring your team feels seen and engaged as hard decisions are made can help build trust.
As schools and programs begin to reopen, we want to share some helpful links to the up-to-date resources to support your planning. In August, the Washington State Department of Health updated their K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-2022 School Year (PDF). While many decisions are made at a local level for each school district, all districts in Washington are currently required to provide in-person learning for 2021-2022. These guidelines create a baseline of expectations and encourage layered prevention methods to ensure health risks are mitigated in both public and private schools.
Seattle Public Schools has issued Community Partner Requirements for Fall 2021 to help clarify for partners, volunteers, and any other adults in buildings what expectations will be — including that all non-school employee staff must be vaccinated. Despite increasing support for a vaccine mandate, K-12 educators were exempted from the recent state vaccination mandate for state workers. (Update 8/18/2021: Vaccines will be required, by October 18, 2021.)
While so much decision making is still happening at a hyper-local level, there are some good resources coming out on the national level that can offer some additional guidance. Equity and a focus on social and emotional well-being of young people and adults must guide decision making. This White House Fact Sheet: Reopening Schools and Rebuilding with Equity offers some useful guidance. Also, the Return to School Roadmap from the U.S. Department of Education includes a fact sheet naming social, emotional, and mental health as an essential landmark in reopening — plus a guide for schools and a checklist for parents.
Throughout this entire pandemic, we are thankful to King County Public Health for continuing to provide up-to-date information and supports to us all, as well as the United Way of King County for keeping their master lists of pandemic supports up to date.
We are two weeks away from starting middle school. I wonder what we have in store. We hope to see you soon, and continue to navigate alongside you — please reach out to us.