Most of teachers who were told late in April their contracts with the Hoquiam School District would not be renewed amid COVID-19-related budget concerns have been told they can come back due to a number of resignations and retirements in the district.
“There was a total of 18 people that we gave the original reduction in force letters to and we were able to bring back 14,” said Superintendent Mike Villarreal.
A total of eight letters of resignation or retirement were turned in to the district as of May 14, allowing the district to rescind 14 of the 18 reduction in force letters sent last month. Villarreal said four of the staff who were offered to return had already moved on.
“The district’s goal is to look at the finances and provide the best support for our students,” said Villarreal. That does not mean more adjustments won’t be made as the financial uncertainty remains in Hoquiam and school districts across the state as revenue forecasts in the age of COVID-19 remain uncertain.
For now, Villarreal said the district is not yet at the point of making drastic reductions in staff or programming, but is closely monitoring state fiscal forecasts and is preparing for potential adjustments beyond the 2020-2021 school year as the real fiscal impact of COVID-19 becomes more clear in the coming years.
Some of the uncertainty stems from just how school will be conducted when students return to school in the fall. At Thursday’s school board meeting, the board discussed the possibility of students coming back to school in phases, of all virtual learning as has been the case for the past few months, or a hybrid of sorts.
In the meantime, the school is aggressively pursuing technology grants. It was reported Thursday that a $5,500 technology grant had been bumped up to $20,000, and the district was in the process of writing a grant proposal for more than $70,000 for homeless student support.
Some of the district’s Chromebooks “are on their last leg,” said Villarreal, so the district is purchasing more in preparation for the possibility of virtual learning extending into the fall.
“That planning has been going on for quite some time,” said Villarreal, saying that regardless of how school looks in the fall the district is well prepared.
The banners featuring Hoquiam High School’s Class of 2020, purchased by an anonymous donor and hung on the fence at Art Pocklington Central Play Park earlier this month, have come down after six of them were stolen.Villarreal called the thefts “disheartening,” and adds to the pain felt by a graduating class that will not enjoy a traditional graduation ceremony at Olympic Stadium.Hoquiam High is planning a virtual graduation ceremony. Principal Brock Maxfield is working to provide some sort of ceremony, the details of which are not yet available.
Some districts plan to hold a more traditional graduation ceremony. North Beach will have a socially-distanced but live graduation ceremony at Lt. Jim Davis Field June 13.
High School staff are currently working on a video for the annual Grizzly Awards presentation, and some of those awards will be delivered by staff to students’ homes. Staff is also working with Aberdeen for the annual Silver and Gold award ceremony.
Ocosta will have a ceremony Saturday where seniors and their parents can come into the gym one at a time to pick up their diplomas and get photos.
Villarreal said he understands the frustration of students and their families, but safety is the primary factor so the district is closely following state guidelines.