Congress set aside federal funds to serve as emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools. There have been two distributions of ESSER funds. The Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, and provided the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).

Funding allocated to Meridian School District was utilized to secure personal protection equipment for safety measures, provide remote access, teaching tools and supplies, as well as additional staffing to meet student needs. Meridian School District was also fortunate to receive additional funding from the Whatcom County Council Cares Grant to help pay for the lease of student and teacher devices necessary to provide a remote learning option. Additionally, the Whatcom County Health Department provided funding through their Whatcom County CARES Health Grant, providing funds to purchase online curriculum, assessment software, learning resources, communication tools, and software.

Meridian ESSER I Allocation – $231,700

  • Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
  • Safety Measures –
    • Protection dividers, floor markings, etc.
    • Air filtering – HVAC upgrades
  • Instruction distribution supplies and postage
    • Additional staffing for cleaning, distribution of meals, and learning materials
  • Communication software
  • Remote assessment software
  • Peripherals for laptops
  • Remote learning teaching supplies
  • Required private school technology support

Whatcom County CARES Technology Grant – County Council $230,000

  • Chromebook lease payment
  • iPad lease payment
  • Laptop lease payment
  • Purchase Chromebook cases

Whatcom County CARES Health Grant – Whatcom County Health Department $79,560

  • Assessment (Formative, NWEA)
  • Remote Instruction (EdPuzzle, ARC, ICEV, SeeSaw, Screencastify, SmartMusic)
  • Educational Technology and 1:1 device support (G-Suite, Zoom, Go Guardian Internet filtering)
  • Intervention and access for students with learning challenges (Renaissance)

 

ESSER II FUNDING

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and provided the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund).

In Spring of 2021, the Meridian School District sought solutions to our rapidly increasing enrollment and need for classroom space. After reaching out to several entities, the Federal Way School District offered to donate seven portable classrooms and one portable office building manufactured in 2008 and 2011. To purchase these buildings new today would cost over $1.5 million. As we continue to experience increased enrollment these portable buildings provide our district with much-needed classroom space, additional gathering spaces, and help provide the distancing needed for COVID-19 mitigation.

Much of the ESSER II funding has been allocated for the delivery and installation of the portables on our Meridian Middle School and Irene Reither Elementary campuses this school year. The office portable will be placed at Irene Reither to house our Family Services Center. One of the portables will be added to the MP3 campus to provide a large indoor eating space that will not only help with COVID-19 mitigation but will also serve the campus well into the future. Engineering, architectural planning, permitting, ramps, electrical, excavating, concrete, and updating of the portables are necessary to install them properly for safety and code requirements.

While we were initially able to obtain permitting and place the portables early in the school year, the international shipping crisis has hindered the delivery of electrical components necessary to provide electricity to the units, complete preparations, and meet code requirements. Our schools have adjusted as we wait for the components and plan for the units to be operational after we return from winter break.

Meridian ESSER II Allocation – $897,703

  • IRE & MMS Portables Installation Estimate
  • IRE & MMS Portables Furniture Order
  • IRE & MMS Portables Speakers & Clocks
  • MMS Intercom Control Upgrade
  • MP3 Portable Installation Costs

 

ESSER III FUNDING

Meridian School District received funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021, signed into law on Thursday, March 11, 2021, providing for the establishment of the  Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund.  Districts were encouraged to use ESSER III funds to safely reopen schools, maximize in-person instructional time for all students, and provide opportunities to address the impacts of lost instructional time resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of the allocation of our ESSER III funding in the Meridian School District has been directed toward teaching positions to address classroom and learning support, to keep class sizes lower at the younger grades, provide for mental health support, ELL support, Cultural Liaison, instructional training, and assessment tools. Most of these supports extend into the 2022-2023 school year.

Meridian ESSER III Allocation – $2,017,808

  • Cultural Liaison Support – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Mental Health Counselor & Coordinator – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Bilingual School Secretary – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • English Language Learner Specialist: Primary – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Family Intervention & Mental Health Services – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Class Support for Learning (Kinder) 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Class Support for Learning (4th grade) – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Class Support for Learning (5th grade) – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Class Support for Learning (ELL Teacher) – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Class Support for Learning (Elementary Specialist: Art) – 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Instructional Training 2021/22, 2022/23, 2023/24
  • District-wide Assessment & Intervention Tools 2021/22 & 2022/23
  • Custodial Support – 2021/22 & 2022/23

Senate Bill 5395, passed by the State Legislature in 2020, requires that all schools provide comprehensive sexual health education by the 2022–23 school year. Comprehensive sexual health education is defined in the bill as instruction about human development and reproduction that takes place over time and is age-appropriate and inclusive of all students.

Students in grades K–3 will receive social-emotional learning. There is no sexual health content required for students in grades K–3. Social-emotional learning is learning about respectful communication, healthy friendships, respecting personal space, and managing emotions. Beginning in the 2022–23 school year, students in grades 4 or 5 will receive sexual health education at least once. Instruction on human growth and development (puberty) generally begins in 4th or 5th grade. Older students will receive age-appropriate information about human growth and development and the reproductive system, healthy relationships, consent, abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy prevention methods. Beginning in the 2021–22 school year, we will provide instruction at least twice between grades 6–8 and at least twice between grades 9–12.

Parents or Guardians will be able to opt their child or children out of instruction with a written request, and will also be able to review our sexual health curriculum prior to instruction taking place.

On October 28th, Meridian held a family information session with a presentation from Cardea about Comprehensive Sexual Health Education and the requirements of the legislation. The slides from this information session can be accessed here.

Cardea has also produced state-wide informational overview videos that may be of interest to families:

Link to the English video: https://vimeo.com/636465096

Link to the Spanish video: https://vimeo.com/638815046

Meridian will form a Comprehensive Sexual Health Education Curriculum Task force consisting of Meridian teachers, staff and parents, and guardians/community members. The task force will recommend curriculum and educational materials for use for sexual health instruction to the Meridian Instructional Materials Committee and School Board. Recommended materials will be in alignment with the requirements of Senate Bill 5395, passed by the State Legislature in 2020, and a match for the needs of our community. 

 

The curriculum identified must be consistent with Health Education K-12 Learning Standards, which provide a framework for comprehensive instruction and the provisions of the law. Instruction must also be age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate, and inclusive of all students, using language and strategies that recognize all members of protected classes. The task force will consider materials that have been reviewed by OSPI and the state Department of Health (DOH) for consistency with these provisions of the law.

 

Parents or Guardians interested in serving on the Comprehensive Sexual Health Education Curriculum Identification Task Force can find information and the application on the Meridian School District Committees and Advisory Groups webpage. Applications close Nov. 1, 2021 at 5pm. 

Quarantining

According to Washington State Department of Health guidance, found at the K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-2022 School Year, quarantine is when someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 stays home and away from others for the recommended period of time in case they were infected and are contagious. People who may be exempt from quarantine:

  • Close contacts who are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms do not need to quarantine but should be tested 3-5 days following known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and wear a mask in all public indoor spaces for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. They should isolate and follow appropriate guidance if they test positive. If they develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, and be tested for SARS-CoV-2 if indicated. The symptomatic fully vaccinated person should inform their healthcare provider of their vaccination status at the time of presentation to care.
  • Close contacts who had confirmed COVID-19 in the past three months, have recovered and do not have symptoms, do not need to quarantine but should watch for symptoms and get tested if symptoms develop. If a close contact is neither fully vaccinated nor recovered from confirmed COVID-19 in the past three months and does not have symptoms, the close contact must quarantine unless the school has chosen to adopt a “test to stay” protocol with approval from local public health. Close contacts following a test to stay protocol must still quarantine at home away from others except for attending school (e.g., the person may not participate in extra-curricular or after-school activities and should not attend social gatherings, etc.).
  • Students who are unvaccinated and choose not to participate in Test to Stay protocol, and staff who are unvaccinated or symptomatic and determined to be a close contact, will quarantine for ten (10) days. If any COVID-19 symptoms develop during the ten (10) days, students and staff should remain in quarantine for the full fourteen (14) days and get tested. Continue monitoring for symptoms until day fourteen (14).

What is the Meridian School District using for Diagnostic testing?

Per the Washington State Department of Health K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-2022 School Year, schools must ensure access to timely diagnostic testing among students with symptoms or who are close contacts of someone with COVID-19. This can be done at the school, at a centralized site for the district, and/or in partnership with a trusted and accessible community-based testing provider and local public health. Timely testing of symptomatic students and staff helps reduce days of in-person instruction lost. Additionally, symptomatic individuals with negative COVID-19 test results may be able to return to school earlier.

It is essential to limit potential disease transmission by ensuring prompt isolation of cases and quarantine of close contacts through effective case investigation and contact tracing. Reduced onward transmission can lessen the number of contacts who will need to quarantine and can prevent the closure of classrooms or a school.

Meridian is using DOH’s Learn to Return Testing program to help meet general diagnostic testing and high-contact sport screening testing requirements. During the 2020-2021 school year if students or staff were considered a close contact they were quarantined for the 14 days, which resulted in a dramatic loss of in-person instructional time.

What will this testing look like?

The Learn to Return program uses two different types of tests to keep students safe and in school. Both of these testing options are voluntary and students can opt-in with parent permission. Parents will be contacted prior to testing and a consent form will be available as well.

Screening

Meridian School District will utilize two types of testing. The first is a rapid antigen test for those students and staff who are determined to be close contacts but are not displaying any symptoms. This same rapid antigen test will also be used for Meridian School District’s High Contact sports (wrestling, basketball, and cheer). Close contacts will be administered a rapid antigen test (BinaxNow). Results from this test are obtained within fifteen (15) minutes. If the test is negative the close contact can remain in class.

Test to Stay Protocol

According to the Washington State Department of Health’s Supplemental Considerations to Mitigate COVID-19 Transmission in K-12 Schools

  • Students may continue to attend class in a modified quarantine status for 7 days after exposure, if they:
    • Are tested at least twice during the 7 days of quarantine; AND
    • Are asymptomatic; AND
    • Continue to wear a mask; AND
    • Continue to quarantine from (i.e., not participate in) all extracurricular activities at school, including sports, and other activities outside their home (e.g. scouts, music lessons, etc.) for the entirety of their modified quarantine period. This includes group childcare or youth development programs provided before and after school, which should not be attended during modified quarantine.

Meridian School District will utilize the Test to Stay protocol as an option for our unvaccinated students who are determined to be close contacts in class or at school-sponsored events, to a positive COVID-19 case. Students, with parental consent, will be placed on modified quarantine for a seven (7) day period. During this time, students may come to school and attend class, however, students will not be able to participate in extra-curricular activities until their modified quarantine is complete. Participating students will be given a rapid antigen test on days three (3) and five (5) of the seven (7) day modified quarantine. If a student does not follow the modified quarantine protocols they will be asked to quarantine at home for the full ten (10) days.

Staff who are determined to be close contacts will be quarantined for ten (10) days.

Students and staff who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are NOT a close contact, should seek medical evaluation, which may include a COVID-19 test. Staff and students who receive a negative COVID test result and are not a close contact, may return to school 24 hours after symptoms improve, including no fever for 24 hours while not taking fever-reducing medication.

Diagnostic

If a close contact receives a positive test result from the rapid antigen or is displaying symptoms, then a diagnostic test is administered. Meridian will use Curative PCR for these tests. The Curative test is sent to a lab for processing and typically results are back within 72 hours. The person who has been tested will follow the quarantine process until the results are returned and symptoms have improved; no fever for 24 hours while also not taking fever-reducing medication, and have two negative PCR tests collected at least 24 hours apart. When these students who are close contacts return to school, they continue twice weekly BinaxNow testing until day 10 after their exposure to the original case.

Shallow nasal swab tests: Both tests utilize painless shallow nasal swab test kits. With these kits, you collect your own sample under the observation of a trained test administrator. Meridian School District will train people designated by the school to hand out and collect the test kits.

The DOH guidelines often change, and as such, our protocols also may change without prior notice. Meridian School District will update with page if the guidance changes. If you have any questions regarding testing or COVID protocols please contact our district nurse, Amber Erdmann at (360) 318-2176.

Senate Bill 5395 was passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2020. Meridian School District will be working with Cardea to develop a needs assessment and facilitate a process for selecting a curriculum.

Cardea provides professional development for teachers who will teach the determined curriculum. We will engage in this process this fall – and ensure there are opportunities for community input. As required by SB 5395, there will be a clear, prescribed process for opting out of the sexual health education curriculum.

The main menu of the district and building websites have a link titled COVID-19 INFO. The Whatcom County Health Department also hosts a Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) Information Page on their website.

An exposure or a close contact is someone who was within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 cumulative minutes over a 24-hour period during the period of time when the person with COVID-19 was infectious. In the classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were at least three feet away from an infected student when (a) both students were wearing face coverings/masks and (b) other preventative strategies were in place. A close contact will be quarantined, stays home and away from others for the recommended period of time. Further details may be found at the K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021
and the 2021-2022 School Year
.

Volunteers included in this requirement include those who engage or are reasonably likely to engage in work near others while physically present at a school building or other districtfacilitated site for longer periods of time. The requirement does not apply to volunteers who are only physically present for short periods of time and any moments of close physical proximity to others on-site is fleeting. More information may be found here: COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement for K12 School Employees: FAQ.

No. Such a policy would violate the Secretary of Health’s Order 20-03.4, and Governor Inslee’s Proclamations 20-25.14 and 20-09.4, each of which require the wearing of face coverings in schools, with limited exceptions that do not include philosophical disagreements with the mask mandates. The Order and Proclamations are binding law that the Board of Directors lacks legal authority to violate or ignore. Condoning or allowing violations of the mask mandates would have serious consequences for the District. In addition to increasing the spread of COVID-19 among students, staff, and the Meridian community, other consequences can include a loss of state funding, forced school closures, a likelihood of lawsuits against the District which would not be covered by the District’s insurance, liability for violations of the federal special education law arising from school closures, and criminal punishment.

All students who are at least five years old must wear a cloth face covering (or more protective face covering, such as an N95 mask), with limited exceptions for students with a medical condition, mental health condition, developmental or cognitive condition, or disability that prevents wearing a cloth face covering. In rare circumstances when those reasons prevent a student from wearing a cloth face covering, they may use a clear face covering or a face shield with a drape or wrap as an alternative to a cloth face covering. Please contact your school principal if you believe your student has a medical condition, mental health condition, developmental or cognitive condition, or disability that prevents them from wearing a cloth face covering.

 

The school district will be providing gender-neutral restrooms. Civil rights laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender expression and gender equity. According to Board Policy and Procedure 3211, and state and federal discrimination laws, students will be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender identity they assert at school. No student will be required to use a restroom that conflicts with their gender identity. Any student – regardless of gender identity – who requests greater privacy should be given access to an alternative restroom. However, schools may not require a student to use an alternative restroom because of their transgender or gender-expansive status.

In addition to a girl’s and boy’s restroom, each building has gender-neutral restrooms that are single occupancy and have the ability to lock when occupied. For safety reasons, special locks have been installed to allow access by administrators in an emergency situation. All students seeking greater privacy have access to these restrooms.

If a student attempts or uses the bathroom that does not correspond to their gender identity, disciplinary action may be taken by the building administration.

According to Board Policy 3211, based on state and federal discrimination laws, use of locker rooms by transgender or gender-expansive students will be assessed on a case by case basis, with the goal of maximizing transgender or gender-expansive student social integration, providing an equal opportunity to participate in physical education classes and athletic opportunities and ensuring that student’s safety. The district will take an approach that conforms with OSPI ‘s guidelines. In most cases, the district should provide the student access to the locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they assert at school. Reasonable alternatives to locker room conditions for any student who wants additional privacy include, but are not limited to:

  • Use of a private area (e.g., nearby restroom stall with a door, an area separated by a curtain, an office in the locker room, or a nearby health office restroom);
  • A separate changing schedule (i.e., utilizing the locker room before or after the other students).

The school will provide accommodations needed to allow the student to keep their transgender or gender-expansive status private. No student will be required to use a locker room that conflicts with his or her gender identity.

WIAA provides guidance regarding transgender or gender-expansive students participating in athletics. They have created the Gender Diverse Youth Sport Inclusivity Toolkit that provides best practices for supporting all student-athletes. According to this toolkit, “Gender diverse students are not typically offered immediate access to a locker room or team based on a single statement because optimizing the experience for that student often requires some level of preparation.” Meridian school district is working with the staff at each building to finalize a support plan for our transgender or gender-expansive students. A student who has questions regarding this process should reach out to their counselor or other trusted staff member.

We have no specific critical race theory curriculum for students. Teachers will be addressing Washington State’s learning standards. To learn more visit OSPI Learning Standards & Instructional Materials. We are committed to serving all kids and making sure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, be treated with dignity, and be valued.

Teachers should be teaching about historical and social issues from a balanced perspective. We will teach about race, racism, and history in a balanced manner. We will continue the work to make Meridian a place where every student feels a sense of belonging and sees themselves and people like them reflected in what they learn at school.

Senate Bill 5044 was signed into law in 2020. The bill requires teaching the adults in Washington school systems (teachers, paraprofessionals, classified staff, administrators, and board members) about cultural competency, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

These concepts are to help us increase our ability to ensure every student feels as though they belong and are treated with dignity. The bill provides legal definitions for these terms. ESSB 5044 Fact Sheet

Yes, we have planned for our regular daily schedules five days a week for the 2021-22 school year.We expect a full return to our classrooms for in-person learning. We are excited to have our students with us as we know it’s best for learning and socialization. We cannot know whether the conditions will change. We have followed the K12 Guidance and Department of Health guidelines and will continue to do so. Any reduction to in-person learning will be at the direction of the Health Department, OSPI, or the Governor’s Office. If the guidance changes, we will be sure to communicate those changes immediately.