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Supporting students to keep academics on track

a paraeducator looks at the assignment a high school student has brought to his deskGlacier Peak High School paraeducator Brian Quantrille starts each day checking for new attendance alerts. He calls each quarantined or isolated student to reassure them that staying home is the right thing to do.

“Most kids are pretty upset they cannot come to school when they are sick or a close contact of someone who tested positive,” he said. “I remind them of all the resources they have available and be sure they know that no matter what the Glacier Peak staff is here for them.”

Depending on the severity of symptoms, most students can keep up with their assignments with district-provided resources. Laptop computers can be brought from school to home. Sometimes the need is access to the internet. In those cases, a wi-fi hot spot is provided by the district.

The availability of these hardware items is made possible through the local Technology Levy approved by voters in 2018. While state and federal funds can help with purchasing technology, the dollars rarely are adequate to meet the actual need in local schools. The local Technology Levy expires next year.

Online access is vital to catch up and keep up on studies. The district utilizes a learning management system called Canvas that allows students to access the day’s lessons and activities.

“My focus is to keep both sides — teachers and students — communicating,” he said. “I want to ensure everyone is treated fairly and equitably.”

Paraeducators, known also as classroom or learning assistants, assist teachers and other school staff to help students succeed. Their daily duties take them into classrooms, out onto playgrounds and a wide variety of other assignments designed to help children get the most from their time in school each day.

The state would pay for only 15 of these positions throughout Snohomish schools or about one paraeducator per school. Dollars collected locally from taxpayers through the Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy nearly double that amount. That levy expires at the end of 2022.

Longtime Snohomish High School guidance counselor Sheri Adams is also part of the team helping keep students connected. She describes her job as an advocate for students and agrees that online tools like Canvas are key.

“We help students prioritize the work they are missing and build a roadmap to catch up,” she said. Hopefully, that road map helps avoid any worries about missing school. “Meltdowns turn into shutdowns,” she explained about the concern of students becoming overwhelmed and dropping out of school.

During the pandemic, Adams and her colleagues across the district are collaborating closely with school nurses, teachers, principals and school support staff.

“Removing the roadblocks for students to catch up and keep up takes priority,” Adams said. “Counselors are part of a big team within schools who are cheerleaders to keep students on track and confident.”

Local tax dollars ensure every Snohomish school has a counselor. State allocations would leave the district about three counselors short. These three counselors are funded from local property taxes through the Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy. The current levy expires next year.