March 18, 2022

Dear HBSD Families,

As we prepare for Spring Break, I wanted to thank you all for your cooperation, support, and understanding during the third quarter.  I am very proud of the way that we have worked together to resolve some very complex issues while keeping school safely open as we continue to move toward what I hope will be a much more “normal” end of the school year.

As a reminder, our school district has a board approved travel policy.  It is summarized below and explains the process for returning to school if you travel outside of our state or within Alaska in an identified “high risk” area.

Bottom line in regard to our upcoming break -

*  A test is not necessary for returning to school if you have had COVID during the past 90 days.

*  If you arrive back to Haines on March 22 or before - no test is necessary for return to school.  You sure can if you want to, but it is not part of our protocol for returning to school.

*  If you arrive on March 23 or after, please administer an antigen test on the mornings of March 28 and 30.

*  As long as your student has a negative test and is symptom free, they may return to school on March 28.

*  Tests do not need to be brought to school as attendance implies a negative result.

At-Home test kits are available in our school and district offices.  Feel free to take enough for your entire family if you wish to use it after travel or any time for that matter.  They are all free of charge.

We are completing the quarter on a high note and have done well in regard to ongoing changes in our mitigation protocols.  Have a great break and thank you for all you do for the benefit of our students and school.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

March 6, 2022

Dear HBSD Families,

As we prepare for tomorrow’s transition to a mask recommended environment, I want to thank all of you for your patience and understanding, especially during this past quarter.  I am eager to see your students tomorrow for what looks to be a sunny day which is good for everybody!  We are beginning this transition with the same conditions COVID-wise that were announced on Wednesday.

As a reminder, other mitigations remain in place (like staying home when you are sick, testing after travel, etc).  COVID tests, surgical masks, and N-95 masks are available in our office for no charge if you would like them.  Also, as of last week, the federal requirement for masks on school buses was lifted so our buses will follow suit.

Staff have “talking points” that address this change, respect for choices, and supporting one another.  We have worked hard together as a team, always, and that won’t change tomorrow.  We’ll monitor things carefully, but I am confident that our students and staff will respond well to the variety of decisions that people make.  Speaking of change, we know that it is easier for some than others, but we’ll be patient knowing that students are very resilient.

We wish our basketball teams, cheer squad, and pep band good luck as they represent Haines in the upcoming Region V basketball tournament in Ketchikan.  They have all done very well over the course of the season and I am pleased that we are sending them to this important event together.  This “normal” high school experience for them is one that is very unique to SE Alaska and I am thrilled that they are on their way.

Here is to a good week ahead!  Although bumps in the road can be expected, I am confident that we will finish the last quarter of the year on a high note.  Thank you for all you do for the children of Haines.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

Superintendent

March 3, 2022

Dear HBSD Families,

I am communicating with you in more detail about yesterday’s announcement that masks will be recommended but not required beginning on Monday, March 7.  I hope this answers some of your questions:

1.     What are our latest numbers?  They have declined substantially over the course of the month and are confined within traceable locations (like within families or a social group).  The numbers reported from DHSS are delayed and are not always accurate for a variety of reasons. This is why communication between the school and our families is important in assisting us with the “real picture” of COVID numbers.

2.     What about isolation and quarantine requirements?  For identified cases occurring out of school, we will expect students/staff to continue to follow the current requirements for both isolation and quarantine as advised by their healthcare provider. If a COVID exposure is identified in school, we will continue to send notices by school level but will not be contact tracing and/or quarantining students.

3.     Will you close school?  The biggest two factors that we will be considering in regard to a school closure is the availability of staff as well as if COVID is more prevalent in school versus the Haines community at large.  This would be an unlikely last resort as we hope to shift to responding more to clusters/outbreaks rather than making a school-wide response.

4.      What about testing?  We will continue to offer at-home tests for no charge. We still need you to call the clinic if your child has any COVID related symptoms. Please do not send them to school until they are cleared to return.  Athletes/activity travelers will continue to be tested on a regular basis, especially before and after travel outside of Haines.  Our travelpolicythat was adopted in December is still in effect for students and staff.

5.     How is risk level determined?  Our School Board adoptedrisk levelson January 4 and later amended them on March 1. This gives me greater flexibility for making COVID decisions while not necessarily having specific numbers in order to “trigger” mitigations (like masking, closure, testing, etc.). This document, as well as other COVID relatedresources, are available on our website athbsd.net. Consistency and routine is important for us all.

6.     Are you still concerned about COVID?  Yes we are.  Even though we are in a transition process along with the rest of the country, we will slowly remove mitigations to ensure safety, continuity, and an orderly change process.  These changes will be guided and evaluated with significant input from our Health Advisory Committee which continues to meet weekly.

I will update you again tomorrow and cannot say enough how thankful I am for your support and help as we work together for the children of Haines.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

March 2, 2022

On January 4, 2022, the HBSD School Board set the following criteria for optional masking:

  • no school related cases (students or staff who have been at school during the contagious period); and
  • Alaska Public Health has cleared all known cases of COVID identified as “community transmission” in the Haines Borough (cases where the source of infection is unknown).

Currently, all known school and student cases clear prior to school tomorrow (Thursday, March 3rd).  Also, the actual Haines case count, as verified by SEARHC and Alaska Public Health, is only a handful of cases with all being traced to family and/or social groups. The conditions set for optional masking have been met.

For that reason, masks will be recommended (not required) beginning on Monday, March 7.

This date will allow for an orderly transition to occur while giving us the chance to discuss this change with our students, families, and community.

All other ongoing mitigations and procedures will remain in place as we transition from an emergency response to one of management and containment.  Additional cases between now and Monday will not nullify this announcement.

I am very happy that this news is due to us reaching what seemed like an impossible goal only a month ago.  It is a testament to our work together as a team with results that could not have been reached without your assistance.  I am grateful for and continue to need your help during this transition.  I will send more information to you tomorrow but wanted you to know ASAP for your own planning and knowledge.

Yours in education,

Roy Getchell, Superintendent

February 21, 2022

Dear HBSD Families,

I hope you are all enjoying the sunshine today as we move closer to spring.  I actually saw the sun yesterday evening at 5:30 and it gave me hope that we are getting there.

Our school district has a process for making hard decisions.  That process flows through our school board, who hears recommendations from me and opinions from our stakeholders, and is done in the open with transparency and integrity.  Tomorrow we will have our monthly board workshop at 6:30 in the library (or via ZOOM) in order to discuss what an effective plan revision might look like for our next steps in pandemic response.  While our workshops are open to the public, they are not designed for public comment. The opportunity for public input will be at our regular monthly school board meeting on March 1 at 7:00 p.m.  Emails about workshop content or any proposal can also be sent to me at:rgetchell@hbsd.net.  You can also reach me by phone or in-person.  School email addresses for board members are available on our website.

Although it is our norm to work as a team, it is the board who will make the final decision about any changes.  My recommendations to them will be made after months of work and research for our current situation, even as we have continued a path toward normalcy during what has been a challenging, yet productive semester.   I am confident that we will arrive in a good place soon that may not be perfect for everyone, but rather a place of common understanding that benefits our students.  Like you, I am hopeful that we are closer to what may be a turning point in the pandemic.

Thank you all again so much for your help and understanding throughout the school year.   We will continue to do well with your help, support, and grace.  Have a great week ahead.

Yours In Education,

Roy Getchell

July 2, 2021

Hello All!

I hope you are doing well and are enjoying the day today.  Summer in Alaska is amazing.

Our school board recently took a first look at preliminary plans for our return to school in August.  We are about halfway along in the process of making these important decisions for our students, staff, and community.   Our goal is to have decision-making that is deliberate, informed, and inclusive.

As the next step in this important process, we are seeking feedback from our staff, parents, students, and community about our important components of our proposed plan.  These were created with consideration from our current SmartStart plan, focus group feedback that I gathered in May/June from multiple groups, as well as multiple sources of updated guidance.  The survey link is here:

21-22 HBSD Smart Recovery Survey

Information gathered will be used as an important data-driven consideration for the official plan which will be approved at our school board meeting on August 3rd.  School related updates and items can be found on our website under the 2021 Smart Recovery Survey button at the front of our webpage.  

The link is here: https://www.hbsd.net

While summer is going fast - too fast - a month is a LONG time in our COVID world for things to change and new things to be learned.  That, when coupled with a desire for creating a plan that Haines will see as meeting the overall needs of the many facets of our school community, make this deliberate approach so important.

I appreciate all of your grace and understanding through this time. While there are many unanswered questions about the future, I know that it is the team culture that we share, backed by a focus on our students, that will allow us to lean forward as we exit this pandemic together.  I value our partnership and am privileged to work with you on behalf of the children of Haines.

Yours In Education,

Roy Getchell

February 13, 2022

Dear HBSD Families,

I hope that you are having a great week!  I can hardly believe that we are on the doorstep of Valentine’s Day. Time does pass quickly! I know it has been a very busy time for everyone and  I wanted to update you on a few things:

1. I am hopeful that we can reach the criteria that our school board set on January 4 for optional masking in the near future. That criteria is:

* no school related cases (students or staff who have been at school during the contagious period); and

* Alaska Public Health has cleared all known cases of COVID identified as “community transmission” in the Haines Borough (cases where the source of infection is unknown).Alaska Public Health has cleared all known cases of COVID identified as “community transmission” in the Haines Borough (cases where the source of infection is unknown).

I am happy to report that we currently have no staff out due to COVID issues and that our overall student case numbers seem to be declining since our high on January 28.  While we do continue to see school related exposures (which we report as needed by level) overall numbers are improving.

2. A school board workshop will be held on February 22, where we will discuss future mitigation plans as well as next year’s school district budget.  I will have some updated recommendations to consider as we prepare for the final months of school and our March 1 regular school board meeting.

3. Our student athletes recently competed in multiple events.  Boys and girls varsity basketball teams competed in the Tok tournament while our middle school wrestlers represented us in a Juneau tournament.  Our girls won the Tok tournament and all of our students represented us well no matter the outcome.  Our middle school event is a milestone as it is our very first competition with middle school officially under our umbrella (instead of CYD).  Drama, Debate, and Forensics (DDF) members are scheduled to leave for the state tournament in Anchorage this week.

4. Recently, the State of Alaska released graduation rates for school districts.  Several years ago we set a goal in our strategic plan for 100% of our students to graduate on time.  I am happy to report that our district hit the 95% mark which is one of the highest in Alaska and is a distinct improvement over prior years.  While we need to remember that every group is different and our relatively small enrollment can impact outcomes greatly, there is an upward trend overall.  Many districts across the nation lost significant ground with this number as a result of pandemic disruptions.  We celebrate but are not satisfied – we need all of our learners to graduate.

5. Our assistant principal, Rhonda Newman, resigned last month in order to return to Ohio.  We appreciate her service to our school.  The position has been posted and we have received a number of applicants already.  We hope to have a decision made for that important position by April 1.

Thank you all again so much for your help and support throughout the school year and especially during the last month.   I know we have had some big waves to ride through, but we are continuing to do well with your help, support, and grace.  Here is to a great end to February!

Yours in education,
Roy Getchell

January 20, 2022

Dear HBSD Families,

I hope that this icy Thursday finds you well.   I know that the beginning of the year has been challenging in regard to COVID-19 whether that is from the illness itself, finding accurate information, or just the fatigue of the past two years.  While I am not a medical professional, at all, I hope to provide some updated information as we work through this together at school.   Below are some questions that I hear a lot:

1. *What are our latest numbers?*Oh, the numbers.  When and how they are reported is changing and will continue to do so.  We work with Alaska Public Health and SEARHC to gather what we can, but primarily we are working with families and staff members who keep us posted when school cases arise (which they have).  We will carefully report any known cases of exposure at school by level as soon as possible.  Things can change, but we seem to be stable in regard to both student and staff illness related absence

2. *What about isolation and quarantine requirements?  Yes – those recently changed.  We will follow requirements as outlined by Alaska Public Health which typically mirrors the CDC.  Guidelines may change again and we will follow suit in order to keep our policies consistent with state and federal health guidance.  If identified as a close-contact due to exposure to COVID outside of school, many factors in regard to quarantine are considered including exposure timelines, vaccine status, and if the exposed individual has tested positive for COVID previously.  In school, since we are currently masking and distancing, your child will not be considered a close contact and quarantines will not be necessary for exposures that happen during the school day.  When our risk level goes down and masks are optional, a “test to stay” protocol will be available for identified school close contacts.  More information about that will come at a later date.

3. *Will you close school?*Our position has always been to protect the in-school learning environment for our students.  Closely behind that priority is the importance of school activities.  In addition to health and safety, the biggest two factors that we will be considering in regard to a school closure is the availability of staff as well as if COVID is more prevalent in school vs. the Haines community at large.  Keeping school open is a shared responsibility and effort that has been very successful, due in large part to the unified efforts of everyone.

4. *What about the take home tests?*The take home tests (antigen tests) have been very good in identifying if someone is COVID positive.  However, it may take longer for them to turn “positive” with the Omicron variant (even with symptoms).  They are still an effective screening tool for asymptomatic student athletes/activities and staff testing since they happen on a regularly scheduled routine.  They are also effective for travel, so long as two tests are taken 48 hours apart.  They are available at no charge in the front office as well as by mail order by visiting www.covidtests.gov.

5. *If my child or I have symptoms who do I call?*Please let us know, but call the SEARHC clinic so they can perform a PCR test.  Again, a negative at-home antigen test may not be accurate early on, even with symptoms.  Positive at-home antigen test results seem to be very reliable but PCR tests seem to be picking up the new variant more quickly than the at-home tests do

6. *This testing all seems confusing – is there anything else I can do?*Probably one of the most underrated ways to check for COVID at home is by monitoring your child for fever or other symptoms before the school day.   With symptoms, please keep your child home and call the clinic for a PCR test.

7. *Will this ever end?*I sure wish I had a crystal ball in order to answer that, but our past has shown that things will improve, sometimes dramatically.  It is through those lessons that we hope to decrease mitigation efforts at the school when our risk levels go down and tighten them as necessary all while moving towards normalcy.   In January it seems like July will never come, but somehow it always does.

I cannot say enough how thankful I am for your support and help as we work together for the children of Haines.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

September 1, 2021

Dear HBSD Families,

The Haines Borough School District recently adopted a strategic plan that is being implemented this year.  These are the long-term goals that our district has to make it an even better place for our students.  A summary includes things like:

·Maximizing the academic performance for all of our learners while also encouraging their well-being;

·Keeping our high quality team of educators in Haines and at our school;

·Increasing opportunities for parent and community involvement;

·Effectively communicating with our parents and community members;

·Graduating all of our students on time and with a plan for their future after high school; and

·Ensuring that all of our graduates possess “Alaska Ready” skills like: cold water safety, avalanche awareness, hunter’s safety, and CPR.

I know that much of the communication home during the last month has been operational in nature, specifically in regard to COVID-19.  Rest assured that while health and safety is and has always been our #1 priority, the vast majority of our time and efforts are the continuous improvement of our school through the goals identified in our strategic plan.  I look forward to updating you on our progress as we work together for the children of Haines.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

Superintendent

December 17, 2021

Dear HBSD Families,

The Haines Borough School District recently adopted an updated travel policy.  It is attached and explains the process for returning to school after travel.  I am hopeful that you’ll find this both convenient and clear.

Bottom line in regard to our upcoming break -

*  If you arrive back to Haines on December 29 or before - no test is necessary for return   to school.  You sure can if you want to, but it is not part of our protocol for return to school.

*  If you arrive on December 30 or after, please administer an antigen test on the mornings of January 4 and 6.

*  As long as your student has a negative test and is symptom free, they may return to school on January 4.

*  District requirements will be “complete” upon a negative test result on January 6.

At-Home test kits are available in our front office.  Feel free to take enough for your entire family if you wish to use after travel.  They are also available at the Haines Borough by calling 766-6409.  They are all free of charge.

If you are using another testing method, please let us know.

We are completing the semester on a high note!  Thank you ALL so much for your support, cooperation, and understanding as we work together for the benefit of our students and the Haines Community.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

Superintendent

August 27, 2021

August 27, 2021

Dear HBSD Families,

We want to thank you for all of your help, support, and kindness this week as we opened the school year.  We have had a very successful start with your help and are looking forward to another great year!

This has been a busy time and there are many confusing nuances about things like close contacts, testing, and quarantines.  We will follow the State of Alaska’s guidelines in regard to how/when quarantining is necessary.  In summary:

*If your student is fully vaccinated, they may stay in schoolif they do not develop symptoms. They should mask indoors and monitor for symptoms.  The CDC recommends a test 3-5 days after exposure.

*If your student is*** NOT fully vaccinated or under age 12 and not yet eligible for vaccine, andmasks have** NOT *been used consistentlyat school, they must quarantine. There are two options for quarantine:

1.With no test, return to school after 10 days of quarantine if no symptoms develop.

2.With a negative test administered 5 days or later after exposure, return to school on day 8 if symptom free.

*If your student is*** NOT** fully vaccinated or under age 12 and not yet eligible for vaccine*, butmasks have been used consistentlyat school,

1.Your student must quarantine if they spent more than 15 minutes cumulatively within a 24-hour period within 3 feet of a COVID positive person.

2.They do*** NOT ***have to quarantine and may stay in school if they were more than 3 feet from the positive person.   The CDC recommends a test 3-5 days after exposure.

Our current mitigations significantly decrease the likelihood of quarantines due to exposures at school.  We will communicate with you ASAP if they occur.

I hope you have a great weekend ahead.  Thank you for being our partner in education.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

Superintendent

August 23, 2021

Dear HBSD Families,

Today you will find several resources as we prepare for the new school year that begins tomorrow for grades 1-12 and next week for kindergarten.   A summary document called “Return to School Operational Guidelines” has been uploaded to our website under the label “COVID­19 News and Updates.” It will answer at a glance many questions that you might have.

While we won’t be requiring the completion of a written health screener, we do ask that you kindly assess your students’ health daily to ensure that they do not come to school with any symptoms thatcouldbe COVID related.  Those include a fever of 100.3 or higher, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, body aches, and loss of taste or smell.  Please call SEARHC at 766-6300 if your child has any of those symptoms to schedule a rapid test at no cost to you.

We appreciate all of your involvement and feedback as we have done our very best to meet the needs of our students.  Working together we are striving to keep our school open and safe as we walk a path that leads to normalcy.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell,

Superintendent

August 19, 2021

August 19, 2021

Dear HBSD Families,

The Haines Borough School District School Board approved our Return to School Plan on August 12th.  Last night at a special board meeting, our return to school date was confirmed as scheduled – August 24th.

As a reminder, highlights of our plan include things such as

  1. Utilizing a system of decision making that allows us to better respond to current conditions vs. having a year-long unchangeable plan (evaluated monthly)
  2. Beginning the year with many layered mitigations that are similar to last year, such as: staying home when ill, wearing masks indoors, maintaining social distancing, and continuing with high quality air filtration and building sanitization
  3. Adding no cost testing capacity with immediate results to return students and staff back to school in a timely manner (this is 100% grant funded)

More information with return to school information and procedures will be coming soon.

I continue to monitor conditions but do not expect our plans to change.   I also would like to thank the community for the voluntary measures taken to control the spread of COVID-19 in Haines.  The grace, understanding, and support received as we begin another school year means so much!

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

Superintendent

August 10, 2021

August 10, 2021

Dear HBSD Families,

We are working on mitigations to make our school environment as safe as possible, all while leaning forward as we walk a measured path to normalcy for the 2021-22 school year.  Our current environment highlights what we already knew – any plan we make must be versatile in responding to our local conditions.  In spite of the challenges we face, rest assured that not only have we done this before, but that the team of educators who are responsible for your children performed at the highest possible level this past year.  That experience has prepared us for the challenges ahead.

On Thursday evening at 7:00, our school board will be taking action on a return to school plan that I will email to you and post on our website.  I have spoken with many of you in person, over the phone, as well as through surveys and focus groups.  Your feedback has been important throughout and you are welcome to provide comment about the plan under consideration.

Some highlights include

  1. Creating a versatile system of decision making that allows us to better respond to local conditions vs. having a year-long unchangeable plan
  2. Beginning the year with many layered mitigations that are similar to last year, such as: staying home when ill, wearing masks indoors, maintaining social distancing, and continuing with high quality air filtration and building sanitization
  3. “Normalizing” things such as:  returning our library to its normal use, returning to regular entrances/exits, utilizing the playground before school, eating lunch in the cafeteria (our normal menu returns), increasing public access to our facility, and dismissing school at 3:00
  4. Adding no cost testing capacity with immediate results to return students and staff back to school in a timely manner (this is 100% grant funded)
  5. Adding a mental health support position for our students and families (this is 100% grant funded)

In addition to these adjustments, we ar

  1. Providing each family/staff member in our correspondence and brick and mortar programs with $40 toward their internet bill during the first semester
  2. Increasing our correspondence allotment by $100 annually to stay ahead of our statewide competitors
  3. Operating under a Federal National School Lunch Program option that offers free lunch and breakfast during the school year.

The safety of our students remains our number one priority as we work to maintain our in-person learning, continuation of student activities, and the well-being of our community.

Yours in Education,

Roy Getchell

Superintendent