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Schools Begin Year in Remote Learning Format


Sumner-Bonney Lake School District announced today it will start the school year in a remote learning format, with this message to families from Superintendent Laurie Dent.

Dear Families:

I hope this message finds you and your children enjoying the summer outside in the warm weather. As I’ve promised previously, whenever the District receives new information or guidance that could impact the operations of our schools in the fall, we would communicate this to you as quickly as possible. We realize that any changes could have a significant impact on all of us, especially families with school-age children and youth. This is the purpose of my message to you today.

In addition to the Governor’s announcements about changes in regulations to reopening our State’s businesses, today - the Director of Health for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department issued a message to Pierce County Superintendents, “Based on the COVID‐19 disease activity in Pierce County and our region, I do not feel it is safe to open schools in  September for traditional classroom learning.” Dr. Chen expressed his concerns regarding the current state of COViD-19 rates of transmission, increasing hospitalizations and the potential impact that new surges of this virus could have upon everyone in school facilities, should our buildings reopen in early September. 

The news was much more serious than we anticipated: the Director believes that the reopening of school facilities and large groups of students within classrooms will accelerate the spread of COViD-19 and have potentially devastating impacts on our region.

Based on his recommendation, we knew that our plans to reopen schools in Sumner and Bonney Lake – plans which were guided by the input of thousands of parents who participated in our surveys and online town hall meetings – would have to change.  

It is for this reason that I need you to know I will be working immediately with the members of our Sumner-Bonney Lake School Board, as well as members of our Cabinet, to readjust our reopening plan by having students start their year in a remote learning setting.  While I can’t promise, I can remain hopeful that there will be opportunities to offer some students face-to-face assistance during this time. 

At my core – I am an educator, a teacher, who delights in nothing more than seeing your child in their classroom, diving into group projects and excitedly telling their teacher what they’ve just discovered.  For that reason, I tell you that this announcement came with mixed emotion.  The delight of seeing our amazing staff and inspired students engaging in learning has to always be balanced in my steadfast commitment to you to ensure their physical and emotional safety, health and well-being. Your child’s health, and the health of our staff, must be the top priority in all that we do.

I know that many of you are deeply concerned about how to manage distance learning, childcare, and specially designed services that your children may be receiving in our schools. Others are dealing also with the financial impacts and job losses that this pandemic has brought to our region. Know that your voices, needs and suggestions are all resonating with us as we quickly make decisions about how to proceed. We realize that a child’s safety encompasses not only their academic program – but the sense of belonging, community and other benefits they receive from their peers and our dedicated staff. 

We have always wanted your child to feel like their school is a second home, and we are committed that our educational programs will have that same goal. Our District will also continue work with OSPI and the Department of Health, as well as our community partners, to determine what we can do to continue the delivery of free meals, as well as exploring enhanced childcare options for families needing this support. Additionally our Family Center, which helps parents and our community find help to meet basic needs, will remain open each week day. 

We have heard your concerns – and they are our priorities to address as we develop new plans. 

We promise that you will hear more information from us next week with further details. For now, we’ve provided answers to some of the questions you may have regarding starting school remotely.

Thank you for trusting us with the privilege of supporting your child’s education. It is a charge we never take lightly. 


Laurie Dent, Ph.D.

Sumner-Bonney Lake School District 


Remote Learning FAQs

In what ways is remote learning “new and improved?”
We listened to our families and have been learning from the experts on how to provide a higher level of online learning. Here are just some of the changes to the remote learning model that families can expect to experience this fall: 

  • Clear expectations and instructions for students
  • Enhanced online materials (with no need to print)
  • More engaging activities
  • Better accountability system for students to get work done
  • Consistent and reliable schedule with all assignments for the week ahead sent on a specific day
  • Scheduled Zoom sessions with the teacher, as well as video lessons
  • All classes will use Google Classroom, our District’s learning management system
  • Provide parents/guardians with Google Classroom weekly reports to monitor assignments, due dates and missing work
  • Address social-emotional needs of students who are isolated from teachers and friends
  • Technology training opportunities for families


Are teachers receiving training in order to teach in the distance learning model?
Teachers will receive mandatory training in August that includes best practices for teaching in a distance learning format as well as specific training on how to use the district’s digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom, and Screencastify. 


Will families receive training on how to use Google Classroom or other technology tools?
The district is planning to provide a variety of training sessions for families before school starts. 


Will my child be receiving instruction from his/her teacher on a daily basis?  What will that look like for elementary students?
Yes. There will be a zoom session with the classroom teacher each day at a designated time that will include some social connection with students as well as a content focus for the day. The content focus will be Language arts and/or Math.  These daily zooms will be a combination of new learning, class discussion of concepts for the week, enrichment and support for new learning. 

There will also be a designated time each day to provide small group intervention for those who need support accessing grade level content .  This will be determined based on data collected from assessments, teacher observations, parent communication. 


What supports will be provided if my student is struggling?
All teachers will hold office hours to communicate with parents and students regarding any concerns or struggles they may have.  

  • Elementary: There will  be a designated time each day to provide small group intervention for those who need support accessing grade level content .  This will be determined based on data collected from assessments, teacher observations, parent communication
  • Secondary: Content teachers will provide additional support for struggling students during Zoom office hours as well as during required Zoom sessions. Support for students will come through direct communication with their content teachers.