Camas, WA — Given the dynamic situation that COVID-19 presents to school districts, Lacamas Magazine asked Dr. Jeff Snell, Camas School District Superintendent, several questions about how the district is managing operations.
Question #1: Local teacher’s unions recently wrote a letter stating they refuse to go into the classroom until Clark County gets into moderate range for COVID-19. What have you heard from CEA? What is your position as the administration?
Snell: We meet weekly with our teacher association to discuss remote learning challenges and opportunities and increasing in-person learning experiences. Our staff has been amazing at continuing to evolve our remote learning instruction, identifying students who need a little more support, and then coming up with ways to provide that support. Their creativity and problem solving is a tremendous asset for our district and community. They recognize how important it is to provide every service possible for students and families.
Question #2: When will first and second grade start going into the classroom?
Snell: We have been methodically increasing the number of students served in person through small groups. In-person services, in small groups, align with the WA Department of Health recommendations during high COVID-19 activity levels. We will monitor how well kindergarten goes and work with Clark County Public Health before consideration of adding any additional grade levels. Obviously case rates have been increasing in our region so we want to be thoughtful about next steps.
Question #3: How many students in CSD have been permanently pulled from being in public school?
Snell: We track enrollment, a measurement of new students, and students leaving the district. This fall, our enrollment has been down by about 5%.
Editor’s Note: With enrollment at about 7,000, approximately 350 students have been pulled.
Question #4: What is the financial, per-student impact when a Camas student is pulled?
Snell: Each student generates about $11,500 in state funding.
Question #5: Is Camas School District doing anything to help students who are having major mental/emotional problems?
Snell: This year in particular we are focusing much of our work on supporting systemic social emotional learning. Teachers, counselors and other district staff are providing intentional opportunities for students to grow their emotional capacity. We do this by highlighting topics such as self-awareness, stress management, and social awareness. In addition, our staff is focused on creating safety and belonging along with positive teacher student connections. When needed, our staff will connect students and families with community resources to assist students that are struggling emotionally.
In addition to the direct support to students, we also take a whole system view on wellness. We have a Parent Wellness program that offers parents a variety of opportunities to learn and connect with others in our community. This year we started a Parent Podcast and continue to provide workshops and book studies on a variety of topics. We are about to host two virtual books studies that are free and open to everyone, “Grown and Flown” and “The Financial Aid Handbook”. In addition, we have an upcoming Parent Wellness virtual workshop, “Brain Based Sensory Supports for Remote Learners”. Whenever possible, we record our workshops and archive them on our All-Student Wellness page on the district website. This site has a host of information, articles, community resources and archived workshop videos.
Question #6: Many parents are asking why is CSD so focused on equity and diversity education right now? They say shouldn’t general education be the focus given how many students are falling behind? And, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on equity and diversity once the kids are back in school?
Snell: Our focus over the past five years has been on seeing and serving EACH student. Creating a community where every student feels like they belong is critical for any learning to happen. This is the goal of our equity work.
It continues to be the responsibility of public schools to serve each and every student who enters our doors. To serve students requires that we create conditions of safety and belonging for all students, with heightened attention to students from marginalized or underserved groups. Our ultimate goal of instilling in each student a love of learning and achievement that opens doors to their futures cannot happen until a student feels seen, safe, and cared for as they are. The pandemic presents many challenges, one of which is widening already existing disparities. Our continued learning about and attention to equity and social emotional learning will ensure that we don’t lose sight of creating more equitable outcomes. This is at the heart of our focus to see and serve each student.
Question #7: Public records state that half of Union High School students are failing right now. What percentage of students are failing in Camas High School right now? I personally know about 20 of them.
Snell: At the progress report time, about 500 students had a failing grade or near failing grade. Last year at this time, there were about 300 students. This is a significant change. Our staff is working to support students across our system who are struggling. Sometimes that means finding ways to connect with these students in ways beyond remote learning.