All 4,036 employees in Northshore School District, including teachers and coaches, either received the COVID-19 vaccine or provided an approved exemption ahead of the statewide mandate on Monday, Oct. 18.
NSD Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid highlighted this statistic and addressed the current “State of Education” during a Woodinville Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Chateau Lill on Thursday, Oct. 14. She focused on topics such as the return to in-person learning, the response to the mental health crisis and the effort to identify language barriers in children.
“Not everybody's happy. I can assure you I've met with a variety of people with a variety of perspectives,” Reid said. “Even in loving families, we have different perspectives on our favorite food, our favorite music, our religious practices and our favorite political party. With such a large family as ours, 24,000 students and over 4,000 staff members, we’re going to have different perspectives.”
Reid said NSD students between the ages of 5-11 should be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Nov. 5. Through community partnerships, she said, the district plans to host a vaccination clinic on Saturday, Nov. 7.
In a continuing effort to recover from the pandemic, Reid said, parents had the option to enroll their children in the district’s virtual program. NSD also provides the ability to concurrently enroll students, which means a child can return to in-person learning once they are fully vaccinated.
Two weeks before the school year started, she said, the district had planned for 360 students to enroll in the virtual program. Due to growing numbers from the Delta Variant, the enrollment numbers grew to 1,425 students within 72 hours.
“That was a bit of a scramble. We didn't completely anticipate that type of number,” Reid said. “Not all districts provided that option, but we felt it was very important for our families.”
She said around 900 elementary-aged children in the district have decided to return to the classroom once fully vaccinated.
Both inside and outside the classroom, she said, students across the district are finding new ways to connect. For example, she noted, students at Woodinville High School created an entrepreneurial club for women to connect with established business leaders.
“We've had a lot more student interest in new ways to be connected and new ways to improve our culture and climate,” Reid said. “Some of the old ways are not as safe as they used to be and are not as meaningful as they used to be.”
According to Reid, so far three of the NSD high schools hosted the most well-attended homecoming dances in history. All three events were held outside, she added, and more than 1,000 students attended.
“There were no negative outcomes, just really inclusive fun,” Reid said.
As the population within NSD continues to grow, she said, the district has taken action to make education more accessible for multilingual students. More than 94 different languages are spoken throughout the district, she noted.
One participant at the luncheon, who immigrated from Peru, said her son graduated from NSD about 10 years ago. At that time, the speaker said, she felt the district lacked support for students whose first language as not English.
The speaker, who is currently working as an interpreter in the district, acknowledged that more resources are available now. However, she said, there are still issues that have not been addressed.
In response, Reid said, the district has added regional family advocates to help students needing language support. Additionally, she noted, the advocates translate information from FAFSA and college informational nights into the top six languages spoken by students.
Mental health is another area of needed support in the district, Reid said.
An attendee at the luncheon suggested that NSD increase conversations about the warning signs associated with suicide, especially as more students suffer from anxiety and depression. She added that students should understand how to help their peers if something seems “off” about them.
Reid said the EvergreenHealth Foundation donated about $350,000 to the school district in 2020 to support mental health counselors.
Stephanie Lizza, director of community engagement and legislative affairs at EvergreenHealth, said the medical center provides young adults with mental health first aid training. The class teaches teenagers how to respond to peers in crisis as well as signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation, she said. The training is virtual, but there are plans to move the course in-person.
A mental health therapist from Catalyst Counseling added that she has witnessed several teenagers with increased anxiety, depression and video game addictions. As children begin socializing with peers again, she suggested more workshops for parents and teenagers to normalize mental health issues.
“I think the mental health issues are significant,” Reid said. “Mental illness often goes untreated, which can lead to serious issues.”
To watch the full presentation, visit the Woodinville Weekly on Facebook for a recording of the event.