Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - November 6, 2020

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
No School Nov. 11 – Veterans Day

Veterans Day Holiday
• There is no school Wednesday, November 11 in observance of Veterans Day.

Thanksgiving Break Holiday Schedule
• Early dismissal Wednesday, November 25 (No live teaching sessions in the afternoon)
• No school Thursday, November 26 and Friday, November 27

NOTE: Grab and go meals for these holidays will be served the day before the holiday.

District transitions to Red Stage

Soaring COVID cases over recent days requires district to temporarily limit in-person instruction for students – athletic start up delayed

This week Walla Walla Public Schools transitioned from its Orange Stage to Red Stage, which keeps all students off campus for up to two weeks following a recent spike in COVID cases across the community. New cases continue to climb according to the health department. District officials receive regular COVID count updates from the health department. In addition to other health indicator concerns, the report revealed a five-fold increase in local disease activity in recent weeks and officials recommended that the district hold off on resuming limited athletic practices.

“The recent spike in cases necessitates we make adjustments to campus access for students consistent with our Roadmap,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “We certainly hoped we would never be in this position, but these soaring case counts and recommendations warrant we respond accordingly to help curb COVID spread across our community.”

Under the district’s Orange Stage, a limited number of special education students, including some high school Career and Technical Education students were receiving limited in-person instruction. These on-campus experiences will be temporarily placed on hold during the Red Stage, for up to two weeks, to help ensure viral conditions recede. Students will receive remote instruction during this time.

The district will closely monitor COVID case counts, in coordination with local health officials, to determine when it is safe to transition back to its Orange Stage. The limited athletic practices set to begin this week have also been suspended and will be evaluated on a weekly basis. While the district has been successful at minimizing COVID spread on its campuses under the Orange Stage, it has seen a significant spike in students and staff who have been exposed or tested positive for the disease in recent days due to off-campus exposure. This has necessitated about two-dozen staff be quarantined at home and about one dozen students who are also at home under isolation conditions primarily due to community exposure in recent weeks.

“We remain committed to safety, communication and transparency in everything we do,” said Superintendent Smith. “The quicker we can get case counts back under control, the quicker we can transition students back to campus.”

More information regarding the district’s Safely Reopening Schools Plan, visit: https://www.wwps.org/safely-reopening-schools

Walla Walla school board earns state Board of Distinction award

Congratulations to the Walla Walla Public Schools’ Board of Directors for earning the 2020 Board of Distinction award from The Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA). This is the school board’s third consecutive statewide honor.

Walla Walla was recognized in the medium-sized districts category for their actions in helping close opportunity gaps. Walla Walla school board members were able to show a clear link between their leadership in applying the Washington School Board Standards and closing gaps that impact student success. Among other accolades, the Board was acknowledged for their leadership around expanding access to early learning and exceeding their target for high school graduation rate years in advance. They were also honored for a 19.5% increase in Hispanic/Latino graduation rates that were nearly 14% above state averages, technology improvements and their focus on district curriculum enhancements and staff professional development.

“All means all in Walla Walla,” said School Board President Sam Wells. “Our strategic plan is focused on supporting the needs of all students and we do this through high quality instruction, sound operational systems and social and emotional supports in a safe and engaging learning environment.”

Joining Wells on the school board is Vice President Derek Sarley and directors Ruth Ladderud, Eric Rindal and Terri Trick. A panel of 10 judges spent approximately six to eight hours each, not only reviewing applications but also working together with WSSDA staff, to collaborate with each other on how applications are evaluated. Judges from across the state included former and current Educational Service District superintendents, State Board of Education board members, former school directors, and others who are involved in education leadership on a statewide level.

Walla Walla remains in contention for the Board of the Year award that will be revealed during the virtual WSSDA state conference Nov. 19.

Columbia REA donation funds internet services for families in need

This week Columbia REA provided the school district a donation to use at the district’s discretion. After reviewing student need, Walla Walla Public Schools has applied the donation to help support students with internet access during distance learning.

“Walla Walla Public Schools will use the generous donation from CREA to ensure that all families, especially those most vulnerable and impacted by COVID and the ensuing financial challenges, have access to free, high speed internet so that their children are able to successfully access their distance learning curriculum,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith.

Doug Case, Manager of Marketing and Member Services for Columbia REA, presented the donation to School Board President Sam Wells and Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. Case said the funds were made available through Columbia REA’s Community Involvement fund. He said supporting schools and children remains a focus for the energy cooperative.

“Kids are always in our thoughts when we are doing our community giving,” said Case. “Schools are a natural fit for us to support since they have the sole purpose of educating our children.”

District to implement Modified Learning Day during hazardous winter weather conditions

While under distance learning, Walla Walla Public Schools is modifying how it responds during dangerous weather conditions this winter season. There will be no two-hour delays this school year. If road conditions are poor, campuses will remain closed to students and staff for safety, but learning will continue for all students remotely regardless of what reopening stage the district is in.

During these Modified Learning Days, all students will stay home and engage in distance learning with their teachers. Depending on weather conditions, grab and go meal services may still be available at district meal pick up locations. Households will receive notification by phone, usually by 6:15 a.m., notifying families if winter weather conditions will result in a Modified Learning Day and if meal services will be available for pickup.

“With our 1-1 technology program we are able to implement this new approach when mother nature doesn’t cooperate,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “Implementing Modified Learning Days during winter weather conditions excludes us from having to make up these snow days at the end of the year.”

New Monthly Financial Tracking Tool

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith and Director of Fiscal Services Nancy Taylor reviewed a new monthly financial tracking tool they recently developed.

This new way of tracking revenues and expenditures is designed to more accurately reflect budget conditions on a monthly basis. Previously the district’s budget tracking tool was used three times a year to reflect on the budget status. Now the district will be reporting it monthly.

Superintendent Smith developed this tool a decade ago at a previous district and has been working with Taylor the past two years to implement it here. The report has a series of columns which easily allows all revenue sources and expenditures to be monitored by Taylor and staff in the Business Office. The new monthly financial tracking tool also allows the district to more accurately reflect its ending fund balance on a month-by-month basis.

Personnel Report (from Nov. 3, 2020 school board meeting)


• Jennifer Davis, Assistant Secretary, Walla Walla High School, 6 years
• Mia Murray, Health Room Assistant, Sharpstein Elementary School, 3 years

NOTE: Judy Hui will transfer from the position of Assessment Secretary, Teaching and Learning to the position of Administrative Assistant, Human Resources, effective January 1, 2021.

School Stories
Sharpstein teacher receives local award

Sharpstein Elementary Special Education Teacher Meg Cochran received a Community Bank Outstanding Teacher Apple Award. Meg was nominated by more than five community members and was selected for outstanding achievement. She received a beautiful trophy and a check for $200 to give to the Special Education Department at Sharpstein.

“Meg is a dedicated teacher and cares deeply about her students,” said Special Education Director Libby Thompson. “She is greatly deserving of this award.”

Garrison Middle School Prevention Club earns state award for social emotional support

Garrison Middle School’s Prevention Club was honored virtually by the Washington Health Care Authority for receiving the 2020 Prevention Award of Excellence – Youth Leadership – Middle School Club award. Prevention Club Advisor and School Counselor Angie Gardea accepted the award via ZOOM during the organization’s annual meeting.

Peggy Needham of Walla Walla County Health Services nominated Garrison for the award. In the nomination, Needham noted Garrison Middle School was trained in Sources of Strength and uses their evidence-based structure to build peer-led programs that target mental health promotion and suicide prevention. In addition, Garrison Middle School students implemented Red Ribbon Week activities and the “You Can” marijuana prevention program.

Last year there were 55 student members in the prevention club, which coordinates events, programming and implementation during the school year.

Walla Walla High School Rifle Team competes remotely in 4 Corners Invitational

Despite current COVID-19 conditions, Walla Walla High School’s (WaHi) JROTC rifle teams competed remotely in the virtual 4 Corners Invitational rifle match on October 20-23 against 22 other schools. The match was hosted by Piedra Vista High School’s Army JROTC program in New Mexico. All scores were submitted electronically from the participating schools. Although not an official match from Cadet Command, this rifle match offered cadets the opportunity to experience shooting competitively this year as the future of Service and National Rifle Championships remain uncertain.

Wa-Hi’s top scoring precision shooter was Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Lopez-Guiterrez with a score of 571, a score that makes him over 95% accurate at hitting a pin-hole sized dot 10 meters away for over two hours. Rifle Commander Cadet Captain Jazmyn Paul came in second with a score of 559, just 12 points away from Lopez’s score. In his first scoring match as part of the rifle team, Cadet First Sergeant Wyatt Huston was WaHi’s top sporter shooter in the match with a total of 506 points. In second place was Cadet Second Lieutenant Jessalee Wilks with a score of 486.

Overall, Wa-Hi’s precision team scored a total of 2,224 points out of 2,400, putting them in 10th place with the sporter team placing 7th with 1,935 points. The winning precision team was La Queva High School JROTC from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Zion Benton Township Rifle Team from Zion, Illinois won first place for the sporter class.

“This was an excellent first match to get the year started for us,” said Rifle Team Coach Sergeant First Class Mark Mebes. “No one has really been able to practice since March 17 with the quarantine in place, so I think we are looking strong already for the upcoming year.”

Wa-Hi National Honor Society students plan coat drive
Walla Walla High School students in the National Honor Society program are sponsoring a Coat Drive through Fri., Nov. 13. All donated coats will be distributed to Walla Walla Public Schools elementary students. 

“The chapter is accepting brand new or gently used and recently laundered coats in youth sizes, XS - XXL or adult small and medium sized,” said Kim Cassetto, Library Media Specialist and NHS Adviser.

Drop-off locations are Northwest Grain Growers, The Market by Andy’s, Shari’s Cafe & Pies and Staples. Coats may also be dropped off at Walla Walla High School. For more information, please contact Kim Cassetto at kcassetto@wwps.org or (509) 526-8609.

Community Stories
Reach Out group seeks community feedback on substance abuse and mental health

Reach Out Walla Walla is in the process of conducting their yearly survey to understand adult concerns facing teens in Walla Walla. This survey will be given in every county and will assess concerns around substance use/abuse and mental health for our community’s youth. The survey is anonymous and should take no more than five minutes to complete. Results will be shared with the public in the spring of 2021, prioritizing concerns for our youth.

Please take a few minutes to help Reach Out by completing this survey. For more information contact Peggy Needham at pneedham@co.walla-walla.wa.us or call (509) 524.2654.


Child Care Survey now open

The Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition and Whitman College are partnering to better understand local child care experiences and needs. We are asking parents to complete a short survey to share experiences with finding child care. The survey should take about 10-15 minutes. When you complete the survey, you will be invited to enter a raffle to win a $50 gift card for a local grocery store.

ONLINE SURVEY: SURVEY https://whitmancollege.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dbsY5lJDaMRMiZn

Like the ELC on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WallaWallaValleyELC

For more information, contact Eildeon McClellan at eiledon.mcclellan@wwcc.edu

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