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PSD Connectivity: March 18, 2021
We all share a common interest as advocates for student learning. As we’ve returned students to in-person instruction, we’ve fielded many concerns and suggestions from parents, grandparents, community members, students and employees. There is a broad spectrum of opinions on the matter. Some are proponents of a full return to school, while others are concerned that we are moving too quickly.

Diversity of opinion on risk is nothing new. The level of risk some people consider acceptable may seem aggressive to others. I think of my family experience with snowboarding. Many years ago, our family of five took up the sport. None of us had skied or snowboarded prior to purchasing gear and investing in a season pass; nonetheless, we were all in. We soon discovered the variety of risks involved. From the bunny hill to black diamond, there was a vast difference in the level of risk we might accept. I learned that my 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter were much more willing to “go for it” than my wife or older daughter. I was somewhere in between. We had some great moments on the mountain as a family. We also had some falls, injuries, and even got lost on the back side of the mountain. Overall, the risks were worth the benefits.

While this analogy breaks down at some point, I think we can see some relationship to how we accept COVID-19 risk. We know there is never a “no risk” environment, and we also know there are benefits to in-person learning that outweigh the risks for some. As school districts we are tasked to ensure our campuses are as safe as possible for our students and staff. Even before COVID-19, school districts were required to have safety plans in place for students with health issues. These may include those with allergies, asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, etc. The Puyallup School District manages hundreds of plans every year with nurses and staff who monitor student needs daily.

The snowboarding experience for our family eventually came to an end as our kids grew up. The cold temperatures and recovery time from bumps and bruises led us to sell the equipment and move on to less risky activities. Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic impact to school will also end at some point. Statewide and community efforts to deliver vaccinations to school employees will help greatly with this. Vaccines are just one countermeasure against disease transmission. In the meantime, continue to be diligent with health and safety protocols. By continuing to mask up and maintain physical distancing, we can keep our school environments as safe as possible.

In service and support,

Dr. John Polm