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Team Fairchild hosts Back-to-School Town Hall

(from left) U.S. Air Force Col. Cassius Bentley, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, Chief Master Sgt. Jason Hodges, 92nd ARW Command Chief, Col. Larry Gardner, 141st ARW commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Brandon Ives, 141st ARW command chief, make opening remarks for the Back-to-School Town Hall at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Aug. 20, 2020. Team Fairchild hosted a virtual Town Hall alongside fellow school district leaders and subject matter experts to discuss issues related to children returning to school and needing childcare amongst the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jesenia Landaverde)

(from left) U.S. Air Force Col. Cassius Bentley, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, Chief Master Sgt. Jason Hodges, 92nd ARW Command Chief, Col. Larry Gardner, 141st ARW commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Brandon Ives, 141st ARW command chief, make opening remarks for the Back-to-School Town Hall at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Aug. 20, 2020. Team Fairchild hosted a virtual Town Hall alongside fellow school district leaders and subject matter experts to discuss issues related to children returning to school and needing childcare amongst the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jesenia Landaverde)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

Team Fairchild leadership hosted a Back-To-School town hall alongside fellow school district leaders and subject matter experts to discuss issues related to children returning to school and needing childcare amongst the COVID-19 pandemic, August 20.

“We know there’s a lot of concerns about schools transitioning to a virtual setting and the availability for childcare for working parents,” said Col. Cassius Bentley, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. “We want to know what issues or concerns there are, and be able to work together and solve them.”

To help clear up frequent asked questions about distance learning, the following Q&A were discussed.

What is the current status of the school districts?

  • Medical Lake, Cheney, Spokane Public, Nine Mile Falls and Central Valley schools will start with distance learning in the fall. Exceptions will be made on a limited basis for students who may need support to succeed in school. School districts will be reaching out to these families to generate a plan and to provide appropriate support.
  • Mead and East Valley schools will both be open in-person for students in grades kindergarten through 5th grade, and hybrid (a combination of in-person and virtual learning) for 6th grade through 12th grade.  
  • Reardan-Edwall schools will open for in-person learning with distance learning options.
  • West Valley schools is pending a board meeting on August 26th where they will make and announce their plans for the school-year moving forward.

Will children be able to return to in-person learning after choosing self-paced?

  • It depends on the school district. Mead School district will allow students to switch back and forth. Spokane public schools has indicated they will allow students to do so on a space-availability basis. Medical Lake has also indicated that they will allow students to return to in-person learning for students that have been using Connect+ when it is available and safe to do so. Please reach out to your school for more information. If you cannot reach your school, contact FAFB school liaison officer, Mrs. Amber Stecker, at schoolliaisonfafb@gmail.com or amber.stecker.1@us.af.mil.

What resources are available for parents that are both working through Medical Lake School District?

  • Medical Lake School District is working with the schools of Spokane County to provide support with educational access for students and families who need childcare for their K-5 students during the school day. This will be determined based on need and availability.

For Medical Lake students, what will a typical full day schedule look like? How much time are kids going to be required to be online? How long will days be?

  • Elementary students will be expected to attend a daily class meeting at their respective school start times. Direct instruction will be provided daily via teacher-developed videos that students can view and complete during the scheduled time or other times throughout the day if needed. Teachers will schedule virtual in-person small group instruction times throughout the week for English Language Arts and Math.
  • Secondary students will be expected to attend three to four block class sessions daily. Direct instruction will be provided through both virtual in-person instruction and teacher developed videos that students can view and complete during the scheduled time or other times throughout the day. Teachers will have daily office hours outside of the scheduled class time and once a week will be advisory. Sample full day schedules for school-paced virtual learning are available on the MLSD website. https://www.mlsd.org/.

How do we expect younger kids to be engaged in an online environment? Is there a plan for non-compliance?

  • Medical Lake district does not expect students in a direct online environment for six hours per day. There will be a mix of online and independent classwork throughout the day. Additionally, our online platform for our K-2 students will be Seesaw, which provides multiple ways for students to share learning and interact during lessons. Teachers have received training in delivering virtual and online instruction to include management for reluctant learners.

What if families have internet challenges or no internet access?

  • Students with limited or no internet access will be able to access through the school in what we are calling internet cafes and student care. Most likely located in the MAE library, with small groups of no more than 10 students, as per Spokane Regional Health District guidance. Please call your school for more information.

Will Chromebooks be issued for all students and when? And what about school supplies?

  • Chromebooks will be issued and checked out to each student K-12. They will be distributed on September 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, during scheduled parent-teacher conference times. Other needed school supplies such as workbooks, textbooks, etc. will also be distributed at that time.

What is the school’s strategy to ensure kids are not falling behind on their school work?

  • We will monitor all students using protocols for identifying and responding to lack of progress, across the continuum of reopening models. This will be no different than when we are in school face-to-face. Teachers and staff will alert the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support team that a student is struggling and the team will work with the student, parent, and teachers to develop an intervention plan.

Will the Preteen/Teen Center open soon?

  • Childcare at the School Age Care program is the priority and is deemed mission essential. The majority of the Teen Center staff have been reassigned to SAC and are essential in ensuring the maximum number of children can be cared for while parents are working.

Will SAC be providing full-day care while children are distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year?

  • Yes, SAC will be providing full-day childcare for a limited number of children until Michael Anderson Elementary returns to face-to-face learning. At that time, we will reassess the hours childcare is offered based on the schedule MAE implements.

Can I bring my child to SAC when I am not working in the office?

  • Currently, children are only authorized to be in childcare when all adults in the household are at work outside of the home. When one or both parents are off-duty or in a telework status, children are not authorized care. Childcare fees are currently being prorated, and families are only being charged for the days they are identifying. To elaborate, each Wednesday families are surveyed and are asked to identify the days during the upcoming week childcare will be needed. If a family selects Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, they will only be charged for three days of full-time care.

Are children required to wear masks while at SAC?

  • Yes, because all children at SAC are five years of age or older, masks are required when in the SAC facility and outdoors when six-feet of social distancing is not possible.

Will the child youth center be providing opportunity for children to log on laptops and do school while they are there?

  • We have met with the Youth Center on Fairchild AFB to coordinate regarding providing opportunities for students to access school while they are there. They will have copies of our school-day schedules to support students with logging in.  

What is the best way to find childcare at Fairchild?

  • Register your child at militarychildcare.com for the Child Development Center and SAC. Registration for Family Child Care begins 30 September.

Are there opportunities for people to help?

  • There are job opportunities available at the CDC, Youth Center, and FCC. Call their individual offices for more information at 509-247-5601. 

What are some resources you have for families struggling emotionally right now?

  • The Family Advocacy Program provides confidential, prevention based couples and family counseling. Many families work with Family Advocacy providers to improve their communication skills, learn new parenting techniques, or to simply have a safe space to process the stress of COVID-19. These prevention based services are provided by medical group staff, but are not documented in your medical chart. These appointments can happen in-person or through telehealth (when appropriate). Providers are independently licensed clinical social workers with extensive experience assisting military members and their families. Please call 509-247-2687 for more information. To access the Washington Department of Health Publication visit, https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/BHG-COVID19-FamilyToolbox.pdf or contact Ms. Ruth Sunde at 509-247-5409.

Team Fairchild is still actively searching for new and better ways to handle the school program crisis that has risen with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Key leadership and subject matter experts are looking for more childcare professionals to better support the demand for care. Leadership understands that COVID-19 is affecting everyone, and they aim to build trust and confidence in Fairchild’s commitment to taking care of Airmen and their families.

If you are interested in being a part of a child care task force to help find solutions to identified issues, please contact Mrs. Amber Stecker at schoolliaisonfafb@gmail.com or amber.stecker.1@us.af.mil.

You can find the full-length live Town Hall on our Facebook Page: Fairchild Air Force Base.