Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - Sept. 18, 2020

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
Board considers bringing PreK-2 students back by transitioning to Yellow Stage based on recent viral trends

The school board has scheduled a special board meeting Sept. 29 to review data and make a decision on transitioning to the Yellow Stage of the district’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools based on an update from the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health. If the school board approves the transition to the Yellow Stage, the district will implement their PK-2nd grade hybrid model for in-person instruction on Oct. 19 as approved by County officials. Communicated with parents prior to the start of school, most students would attend either a morning or afternoon session for face-to-face instruction, and receive their remaining learning remotely in order to comply with strict social distancing guidelines. A limited number of pre-identified students who receive special education, English learners and other remediation supports may be provided a full day experience on a case-by-case basis while in the Yellow Stage.

In a letter to Walla Walla County school administrators sent Sept. 17, Walla Walla County Department of Community Health (DCH) officials reported they have been monitoring COVID-19 disease activity throughout the county. Disease activity as indicated by new cases/100,000 population over 14 days has been decreasing over the past month warranting a new recommendation on hybrid learning.

At this time, the overall Walla Walla County disease activity, and the City of Walla Walla, remain above the WA DOH recommendation, but rates have been steadily dropping throughout the last month. If current trends continue, local health experts project rates across the county will continue to drop below the DOH recommended benchmark by the middle of October. If rates reach 45 cases or less over a two-week period, this will permit WWPS to begin transitioning back their youngest learners as soon as October 19.

“Advancing to the hybrid learning model is not expected to pose a significantly greater risk to staff and students than their current activities,” said Larry Jecha, M.D./MPH Health Officer, Walla Walla County. “A Hybrid mode permits schools to provide in-person instruction at roughly 50% capacity.”

If viral counts permit, and the Board approves transition to the Yellow Stage, the district plans to communicate schedules, bussing and other health-related protocols to Prek-2nd grade families the week of October 5. Once viral conditions dip below 30 cases or less over a two-week period, WWPS would then be in a position to bring back all students under their hybrid-learning plan. More information regarding the district’s Safely Reopening Schools Plan can be found on their website here: https://www.wwps.org/safely-reopening-schools

“These dates allow sufficient time to continue to monitor disease activity through the end of September to ensure that it will not escalate significantly,” said Dr. Jecha. “Strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, according to state and local guidance, including use of face coverings and physical/social distancing will be necessary to ensure that students and staff are able to return safely.”

Melito Ramirez named 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year

Walla Walla High School Intervention Specialist Melito Ramirez has dedicated the past four decades working professionally to support students and families and was honored for his career Monday night being named the 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year.

Melito has spent the past 12 years as an Intervention Specialist for Walla Walla Public Schools. As a child Ramirez grew up in a migrant family traveling from Texas to California, Washington and other western states seeking agricultural employment. He began his career in the College Place School District in 1980 working to improve communication and support to migrant families living in the area. In his current role as an Intervention Specialist, Ramirez works with students facing social-emotional barriers, including depression, social and emotional concerns, substance addiction and poverty. He works to support these students by building relationships, keeping communication flowing between students, their family and their teachers, and providing support to students who need help working toward graduation.

“Melito models, through belief and action, our district’s core commitments around equity, access and engagement,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “He is a mentor and role model for so many students, providing resources, support and encouragement.

Ramirez says his love for the community and helping people is what fuels his passion.

“I didn’t get into this line of work to get recognition or to make millions of dollars,” said Ramirez. “I get my inspiration by working with students and helping them realize their dreams. It’s satisfying seeing so many school district staff who I supported as they were growing up being successful in their careers and raising their own families.”

One of his former students is Marilyn Melgoza who was recently named Wa-Hi ASB Advisor and also works in the Equity and Dual Programs Department as an outreach specialist.

“Melito constantly reminded me the work we do is for our people and our communities,” said Melgoza. “He always encouraged me to be my authentic self, share my truth, share my story, and be a voice for others. The way students and families talk about the trust they have in Melito is powerful, it is inspiring, and it must be recognized!”

Ramirez is a gifted communicator who has a natural ability to identify and close gaps in his community. He specializes in working with migrant families with backgrounds similar to his own. He maintains a leadership position in an adult evening school that helps adults improve their English skills, learn first aid, gain citizenship and develop viticulture skills. He also gives back to the community by serving on the College Place School District Board of Directors.

“It is safe to say that Melito’s influence has been instrumental in our district’s ability to close the graduation and dropout gap for Latino students,” said Superintendent Smith. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this incredible recognition.”

Ramirez will continue on to the national competition being the first Washington Classified School Employee of the Year to compete for the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) award, administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

District principals report year off to a great start

Tuesday night Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith invited Principals Michelle Carpenter (Berney), Kristina Duncan (Pioneer MS), Ron Higgins (Wa-Hi) and Walla Walla Online Director Carina Stillman to provide a week one overview report to school board members.

The consensus from these district leaders is the school year is off to a good start despite all the changes and technology demands associated with distance learning.

“It’s amazing to be part of something that has never been done before. We didn’t have a playbook, but here we are and it’s working,” said Michelle Carpenter, Berney Elementary Principal.

With week one in the books, attendance across the district exceeded 95 percent. Principals reported dropping into classrooms to observe live, synchronous learning sessions and witnessed teachers and students engaged, communicating and building relationships. While there have been a few technology glitches here and there for a limited number of students, the district’s IT department has been very responsive addressing the issues. This summer Superintendent Smith supported the district’s move to increase its telephone and internet service capacities and both systems met operational expectations and handled the increased loads. The new Walla Walla Online school has an enrollment of 475 students. This program appeals to families who need more flexibility in their schedules.

Principals said they will closely monitor special education and primary classes as these groups need additional support and coordination.

Personnel Report (from Sept. 15, 2020 School Board meeting)

Rosalinda Gutierrez, Para-Educator, Garrison Middle School, 1 year

Enrollment and budget update 

September enrollment numbers are coming into focus as kindergarteners started school this week. Superintendent Smith reported the district begins the year at 5443 FTE for its unofficial count. The state extended the deadline to later this month for official counts since many districts across the state are starting later due to COVID.  Superintendent Smith said enrollment was slightly higher than anticipated a month ago, but still expects overall numbers to be down about 170 FTE for the school year. Superintendent Smith reported the district begins the year with a $3.4M revenue shortfall and has trimmed expenses through its Two Phase approach to cost cutting. He said the district will closely monitor expenses all year as the district adjusts to COVID budget impacts. 

Bond Progress Report – September 2020

Walla Walla High School
• Jackson Contractor Group worked with sub-contractors to get the new Science Building ready for occupancy, including fire alarms, HVAC systems, internet access, bathrooms and lighting.
• Jackson also aided the district in providing a new direct access to the old Science building’s mezzanine to aid in removal of stored items.
• Infrastructure package nearly completed.
• Punch list items needed to be fixed for the new Science Building to be deemed complete.
• Wenaha Group and Jackson Contractor Group held a public opening of subcontractor bids and many local subcontractors have been awarded work. The bids were competitive and resulted in a budget alllowing all desired alternatives.
• Wenaha Group compiled all necessary documentation for submission of the D-9 form to OSPI and OSPI issued a D-10 form authorizing the district to sign contracts and begin construction.

Pioneer Middle School
• The electrical work in the tent was completed.
• The close out items were completed in the modulars for teachers to move in.
• The low voltage internet work on modulars completed to provide data and communication.
• The bathroom trailer was delivered on site, the utilities were hooked up, and the ramp was installed by Royse Hydroseeding.
• Nelson cut into the CMU wall for access to the computer lab for in-person learning.
• Wenaha Group held a public opening for Pioneer MS which had substantial interest with 8 general contractors submitting bids and eventual award going to local general contractor Jackson Contractor Group. The district was able to obtain every design alternate that was desired.
• Wenaha Group compiled all necessary documentation for submission of the D-9 form to OSPI and OSPI issued a D-10 form authorizing the district to sign contracts and begin construction.

Blue Ridge Elementary
• The general contractor is working on the landscaping and irrigation to finalize project.

Lincoln High School
• Construction documents are 50% completed and were turned in for review and comment.

Federal government extends free meal program

Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended the free meal program through December to help ensure all children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, all meals will be free for all children ages 1-18. This includes children not enrolled in school. Parents and guardians may pick up meals for their children. More: https://www.wwps.org/news/spotlight/6014-free-meal-program-extended

During distance learning, Walla Walla Public Schools is handing out meals Monday through Friday at several school and community locations from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The district will deploy two school buses daily from 12 noon to 1 p.m. at several bus stop route locations across the community. All meals are “Grab & Go” and include lunch and the next day’s breakfast. Please wear face masks or face coverings when picking up meals.

“Grab & Go” Meal Pick Up locations:
• Berney Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Edison Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Garrison Middle School (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Green Park Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Prospect Point Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Sharpstein Elementary (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Washington Park (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Lincoln High School (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Bus Route One: (please arrive five minutes early)
- 12 noon: Corner of N. Touchet and E. Cherry St.
- 12:10 p.m.: Corner of J. St. and N. Roosevelt St.
- 12:20 p.m.: Vista Terrace Park
- 12:30 p.m.: 2815 Melrose Trailer Park
- 12:40 p.m.: Middle of block between Tausick Way and Garden St.

• Bus Route Two: (please arrive five minutes early)
- 12 noon: The corner of Lodge and Sunset Dr.
- 12:10 p.m.: The corner of Chase and Eagan
- 12:20 p.m.: 11th Ave. Middle of block between Main and Alder
- 12:25 p.m.: 11th Ave. Middle of block between Birch and Willow
- 12:35 p.m.: 11 Ave. and Edith Ave.
- 12:45 p.m.: Corner of W. Moore St. and 8th Ave.

Nutrition Services Director Pamela Milleson reminds parents it is important to be ready for the time when the district is back to its regular meal program by continuing to submit Free & Reduced price meal applications which are located on the district’s website at: https://www.wwps.org/departments/nutrition-services

School Stories


Next week all K-8 students will be starting an assessment called i-Ready diagnostic.
• Math begins Sept. 21
• Reading begins Sept 28
• Links to the i-Ready Diagnostic Assessments are located on the school’s home landing page.
• Look for more information from your child’s teacher coming soon.

A diagnostic is not like a traditional test. It starts with questions at the student’s grade level and then will adapt based on their answers. This an assessment where they will get questions that are hard to answer because it is diagnosing their top level. Tips for taking the i-Ready:
• Encourage students to try their best, but if they have tried to work through a problem and can’t get it have them pick their best answer and move on.
• Students should take both the math and reading diagnostics in 15-20 minute periods, over a few days. Their test progress is automatically saved. (Use scratch paper for math)
• Parents, it is extremely important you do not help your children on these tests as each student receives a lesson pathway based on their levels.
• These pathways are giving them the math and reading support they need. We want these lessons to be at their appropriate levels.
• Students will get a “Diagnostic Complete” when they are all done. Your student’s teacher will be monitoring progress each day to make sure students aren’t rushing and to make sure they have completed the diagnostic over the week.
• If you have a student in K-2 dual language, their math diagnostic will be in Spanish. We understand this may not be in their home language, but is the language of instruction. There will be some productive struggle and we just ask that they try their best. They will not take a reading one because currently it is only available in English.

Please connect with your child’s classroom teachers for additional information. Contact Carrie LaRoy for additional questions about i-Ready – claroy@wwps.org / 509.526.6786.

Exploring Post 311 names its Wa-Hi Latino Club Adelantarse scholarship recipient

Congratulations to Esmeralda Rojero Gonzalez for being named a recipient of the Walla Walla High School Latino Club’s Adelantarse scholarship award of $500. The funds are designated to a college of her choice to offset tuition expenses. Esmeralda was the Latino Club Secretary last fall. She has been active in club activities, including Shakespeare Walla Walla, Dia de los Muertos Festival, WSU CASHE conference, Parade of Lights, Walla Walla County Fair and Wa-Hi’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. Esmeralda is attending Washington State University this fall with plans to become a bilingual teacher. 

FREE test prep materials

Walla Walla High School Career Center’s Katharine Curles reports Walla Walla Public Schools students are invited to use the Washington Book Exchange. This is a confidential test prep book exchange for students to request free Advanced Placement or test prep books from the group’s website. Here is how it works:

Step 1: Search: washingtonbookexchange.org
Step 2: Click, “available books” to browse the inventory
Step 3: Click, “request books” and fill out the remote request form
Step. 4: Monitor your email; if you don’t hear from them, your book is on its way
Questions: Contact – washingtonbookexchange@gmail.com / To learn more and/or support the exchange, follow @washingtonbookexchange on Instagram

Community Stories
Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative Survey

Walla Walla County’s Reach Out Walla Walla Coordinator Peggy Needham recently released the Community Prevention and Wellness survey to get community input. The survey asks parents and community members how they think Walla Walla youth are doing.

“We want to know what your thoughts are on this important issue facing our community,” said Needham. “By taking this anonymous survey, we will be able to gauge your impressions on youth alcohol, marijuana vaping and tobacco use.”

The survey also addresses mental health concerns for youth, including depression and suicide.

“Reach Out Walla Walla cares about what you think, and we want to do the best that we can with our funding to address your concerns,” said Needham. “This survey should take no more than five minutes to complete and we will share the results in the spring of 2021.”

If you have any questions, contact Reach Out Walla Walla coordinator, Peggy Needham pneedham@co.walla-walla.wa.us or 509.524.2684.



All Walla Walla Public Schools students eligible for FREE resources from Walla Walla Public Library

Walla Walla Public Library announces all Walla Walla Public Schools students are eligible for full digital access to the Walla Public Library.

How it works:
• Register online for your digital library card: www.wallawallapubliclibrary.org/services

• Free online classes
• Free ebooks
• Research support
• Audiobooks

Additional information: 509-527-4550
Email us at wwpl@wallawallawa.gov
Visit us online at www.wallawallapubliclibrary.org
Follow Library events on Facebook/Twitter

AAUW announces “Virtual” Kitchen Tour 

AAUW-Walla Walla announces its 2020 “Virtual” Kitchen Tour. All funds raised through this event go directly to scholarships for young women in the community.
• Virtual Kitchen Tour available online: www.aauwwkitchentour.com
• Sunday, Oct. 4 thru Thursday, Dec. 31
• Interactive Tour website
• 8 kitchens, 3-D video and photos of each kitchen
• No ticket required – donate online
• For more information: wallawalla-wa.aauw.net or www/facebook.com/aauww2

Secret Life of the Forest – Streaming On-Demand

On 21 September 2020, Blue Mountain Land Trust launches the online premiere of Blue Mountain Television’s “Secret Life of the Forest: The Northern Blue Mountains.” This 13-part series explores the natural history of the northern Blue Mountains of Southeastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon. Soak in this massive mountain range’s beauty and splendor and the plants and animals that inhabit this little-known landscape. Mike Denny’s incredible knowledge of the Blue Mountains and Daniel Biggs’ photography has created an awe-inspiring account of life in the northern Blue Mountains. Episodes can be streamed, on-demand, directly from your home. So, relax on your own, or with your family, and get a little closer to the Blues together. For episode descriptions and registration information, please visit the Blue Mountain Land Trust website at https://bmlt.org/slf

Access to the series is free and open to the public until November 21, 2020.

EF Tours: Stories of Scotland-Summer Adventure 2022! – Kathryn Southwick Hess

Spend nine days visiting Glasgow, West Highlands, Inverness, Edinburgh, and an extension to London. Around every loch, moor, and castle a Scottish story is waiting to be told. Whether it’s from the mouth of a skilled storyteller, from the calloused hands of a hardworking Glaswegian, or from the well-worn cobbles of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile you can expect a vibrant story bursting with life. Go beyond seeing Scottish landmarks and experience the kingdom of the north through the stories of the Scots. Interested in more Information? Join the Virtual “Zoom” Information meeting on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 7 p.m. from the comfort of your favorite chair & device.
• Please RSVP to the link below after which you will then receive a link to join the September 29 Zoom
• Zoom meeting: https://bit.ly/2DNlcHz
• NOTE: EF Tours are not sponsored by Walla Walla Public Schools

City Parks & Rec Weekly Update

• Chalk-Tastic chalk art contest open to kids 5-16. Categories are things you would see in a park or anything recreation related. Submit pictures to parks@wallawallawa.gov. Deadline has been extended to September 27.
• Walla Walla Soccer Alliance Skills Clinic – Ages 5-17. Cost $25-$30. This soccer clinic will adhere to all local health guidelines set forth by the WA Dept. of Health.

Please visit our website at www.wwpr.us for updated information regarding recreation programs as it becomes available. If you have questions, feel free to contact the Parks & Recreation Office at 509-527-4527, recreation@wallawallawa.gov or parks@wallawallawa.gov.

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