The days of kids playing tag at recess or high fiving each other during sports are behind us, or at least for now. Like it or not, our lives currently look much different due to the pandemic, and few places have changed as drastically as schools. In the past, back-to-school checklists included sports uniforms, lunch boxes, and school supplies. These days, back-to-school requires high-speed internet, a desktop computer, or if going back in person, face masks and hand sanitizer. Families and schools are wrestling with difficult decisions, and it seems there are no easy answers. If you’re wondering what local schools are doing about reopening during the pandemic, you’re not alone. The information changes quickly, so it is best to check directly with your child’s school for details and the most up-to-date information. But, here is what we know so far.
The State has set precise requirements and metrics for when schools can reopen and stay open during the pandemic. There are three models: completely remote, a hybrid (some days in person and some days at home), and most or all in-person classes. Even if a school reopens for onsite classes, it’s going to be a much different experience for kids this year.
What are the new requirements from the State? The specifications to open schools for in-person instruction are based on COVID-19 metrics at both the state and county levels. Here are the basics as per the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). For a school to return to in-person instruction or hybrid instructional models, these metrics are required:
• County metrics must be met three weeks in a row and include case rates of ?10 cases per 100,000 population in the preceding seven day period.
• Test positivity must be ?5% in the preceding seven days. These requirements also specify that schools will offer in-class options for students in grades K-3 to the extent possible. Younger students need access to in-person instruction to build literacy and numeracy skills critical to their continued learning.
Under ODE’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance, each school has been required to submit a plan to the District to provide onsite or hybrid instruction. Districts must submit each school’s plan to their local school board and make the plan readily available to the public. This form is to be used to document a school’s plan to ensure students can return for the 2020-21 school year, in some way, per Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-25(10). ODE recommends plan development include school-based administrators, teachers, school staff, health and nursing staff, association leadership, nutrition services, transportation services, tribal consultation, and more.
At this point, Warrenton schools are holding out hope that the metrics will allow the opportunity for in-person instruction. As long as the COVID-19 parameters permit, grades K – 3 will have in-person instruction four days per week (Monday to Thursday) with distance learning on Friday. Grades 4 – 12 will have in-person instruction two days per week and distance learning three days per week (including Friday). With the current metrics, onsite instruction for grades 4 – 12 is not possible, but they are hopeful that the metrics will improve in the coming weeks.
Currently, COVID numbers surpass the conditions to reopen Seaside schools in person. Unless the county sees significant improvement in its caseload for three consecutive weeks, all schools in the District must plan to move to comprehensive distance learning. Distant learning classes are scheduled to begin on September 14, with a 100% Comprehensive Distance Learning model for the first six weeks of school. During the week of October 26, the county and state will review the data and make changes accordingly. This will provide the information needed to make an informed decision about reopening buildings or continuing with distance learning. Seaside School District is committed to bringing students back to school on site when it is safe to do so.
All K-5 students will be learning remotely. Fall remote learning model will not look like the remote learning model lof last spring. Students will be given a clear schedule, an increased focus on student learning, improved clarity around work completion, and strict grading criteria. The District is in the process of purchasing an online learning platform for all K-12 students, where students and parents will be able to easily access lessons and assignments in all subjects in a clear and easy-to-use format. All remote learning will include the opportunity for students to receive live instruction and support from their teachers’ multiple times per week
Jewell School District starts September 8 with a hybrid model. Are you curious about bus procedures? All buses will have a driver and an assistant. The bus driver or assistant will visually screen students before boarding the bus, and everyone on the bus (staff and students) will be required to wear a facial covering. If a student needs a mask, it will be provided. The driver and assistant will assign seating, and social distancing will be required.
Jewell School will still serve breakfast and lunch each day. Students will eat in cohort groups, limiting the amount of contact with other cohort groups, and food will be delivered to the students in their cohort groups. When students finish eating, used trays, and trash will be collected at the cohort tables. Students will be given breakfast and a lunch at the end of the day to take home for their ‘off’ day(s).
What about recess for elementary students? Primary students will get recess periods. Recess will be spent with their cohort group, and each group will have their own balls, frisbees, etc. for their recess time. Students will not have access to the playground equipment because the District can’t clean and sanitize the equipment adequately between cohorts. During lunch recess, multiple cohorts will be at recess at the same time. Cohorts will be assigned to different play areas to keep the groups separated. Those play area assignments will regularly rotate so that students will have access to various play areas.
The school districts are doing everything they can to make the right decisions that will keep staff and students healthy, informed, and educated. They appreciate the patience and support of the community and encourage parents to stay informed.