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Edmonds School Board receives updates on support for homeless students, AVID program

Gustavo Balderas, Edmunds School District Principal, briefed the Edmunds School Board Jan. 11 about the growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Snohomish County.

Edmonds School District leaders met again Tuesday night after the winter break and received multiple briefings on the ways the district is working to help students most at risk.

At a January 11 business meeting, the Board of Directors received two updates regarding eligible students for the McKinney-Vento Program, which is intended to ensure that students experiencing homelessness have equal access to education.

The first update came from Carla Sanchez, the district’s homelessness, foster care and immigrant student coordinator. Sanchez said the district has nearly 400 students eligible for McKinney-Vento as of December 2021. However, she said there may be more students in the district experiencing homelessness, and staff are working with school administrators to identify them.

According to Sanchez, McKinney-Vento students graduate at a rate of 50% compared to their classmates, and the staff offers tutoring, credit renewal courses, and exam retake opportunities. Sanchez also updated the whiteboard at Edmonds Hub, which offers McKinney-Vento students laundry services, access to coats, cool clothes, hygiene products, emergency food pantry, Wi-Fi, and on-site counselors to help students at all grade levels scholastic. School work.

However, Sanchez said the only permanent solution is more housing, and she praised the recent agreement between the district and the nonprofit organization Everett Housing Hope to develop a housing complex of 40 to 50 affordable housing units to house homeless students and their families. According to the proposal, the complex will be developed on the 1.8-acre Scriber Baseball field, located along 58th Avenue West and adjacent to Cedar Valley Community School in Lynnwood.

“Having housing and being able to refer[students]to a place like Housing Hope, I think, would be great for families in the area,” she said.

In addition, the board has updated the AVID (Advance via Individual Selection) pilot program, which aims to narrow the gap between low- and top-performing students and ensure more students enroll in four-year colleges and universities.

During the briefing, Mark Madison, District STEM and Career/College Readiness Program Director, explained that through the AVID program, students learn how to take detailed notes, organize their schoolwork, and other ways to prepare them for career and educational opportunities after high school.

“The intent of AVID is that these strategies and mindsets that make up AVID’s professional framework and college readiness are beginning to spread throughout the entire school,” he said.

Currently, the program is offered as an elective to eighth grade students at Alderwood Middle and Meadowdale Middle Schools and ninth graders at Lynnwood High and Meadowdale High Schools. The curriculum includes two days of teaching, two days of tutorial time and one day scheduling guest speakers or field trips, though he added that there have been some challenges in making arrangements for speakers and trips due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Madison, about 40 students signed up for the course at each school and added that teachers saw improvement from the students enrolled.

“We’re starting to see this movement not only from the AVID electives but also to the non-AVID elective classes,” he said. “So, overall, it was a positive.”

Madison said there are plans to expand and offer AVID to other schools and at different grade levels, but these have been delayed due to the pandemic until the 2023-24 school year. He also said that staff are looking to hire a tutor, but added that the job pays minimum wages and has not attracted many applicants. As a result, he said, staff are considering hiring high school seniors and juniors next year as well as Edmonds College students enrolled in the service learning program.

In other acts, the council conducted a second reading and adopted a new district policy regarding the use and display of flags on the poles in front of the school buildings. The new policy aims to ensure “the standard of displaying the flag on county property in compliance with national and state protocols for displaying the flag and etiquette.”

Also during the meeting, officials updated the board on the latest number of COVID-19 cases across Snohomish County and how they are affecting the area. Supervisor Gustavo Balderas said the number of cases has risen from 500 to 1,000 per 100,000 over the past week, and health officials expect it to continue rising over the next two weeks before peaking. He also encouraged students and their families to get vaccinated and staff later said in the meeting there was “clear evidence” that vaccination helps neutralize the virus type of omicron.

During the update, Balderas said that while the district is working to keep school buildings open for personal learning, staff will make decisions based on data and advice from public health officials. He also noted that switching to a distance learning or blended learning model will not be as easy as it was in the past which is something employees are working to avoid.

“We know the kids have to be on our campuses, and we want to keep them on our campuses,” he said.

This week, three schools – College Place Elementary, Mountlake Terrace Elementary and Lynnwood High – switched to remote learning as a result of the number of staff and students discharged due to illness. For more information, visit COVID-19 Dashboard Available on the district website.

Staff also updated the board about plans to return to in-person school board meetings. Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab said in-person meetings would be limited to 40 attendees to allow for social distancing and added that masks would be required. He added that there were still plans to continue broadcasting the meetings online.

“We are ready to implement this whenever we feel the time is right to do so,” Schwab said.

Although the board expected to return to meet in person this month, Balderas suggested waiting until February to wait for the number of reported COVID cases to decline.

Also, newly elected Board Member Keith Smith was sworn in and the Board voted to elect Director Nancy Katims as Chair. Former Board Chair Deborah Kilgore has been elected Vice Chair.

Written by Cody Sexton

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