School districts share plans for fall
Local school districts have been working on their blueprints for school in the fall and recently shared tentative plans with their communities.
Every school district must follow guidance from the Oregon Department of Education called "Ready Schools, Safe Learners."
Under the guidance, updated July 22, students of all ages must wear masks and maintain distance from one another. Schools must follow rigorous cleaning protocols, staff will visually check students for symptoms, and they will keep logs to help with contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
There also needs to be 35 square feet of space per student, which is why many schools are grouping students into cohorts and alternating days that those cohorts attend school.
But every school districts' plan is a little different. Here is what we know about Colton's, Molalla's and Canby's plans so far.
Molalla held online information sessions for their school communities over the past couple weeks to reveal tentative plans.
In Molalla, grades K-2 will take place in-person four days per week and remotely for the fifth day of the week. Grades 3-12 will be split into two cohorts and will learn in-person two days a week and remotely three days a week.
Alternately, families can opt to enroll full-time in Molalla's new online academy, taught and managed by Molalla teachers. Those who choose to do so are asked to commit to a full year. Enrollment is scheduled for Aug. 3-12 online.
But before that, those who are interested in the online academy can attend information sessions via Zoom from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 28 for middle and high school and from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 29 for elementary school. To RSVP, use the link bit.ly/2OT9dKr or check out the latest email from the school district and click "RSVP here."
For those who opt for Molalla's hybrid plans, staff has made it clear that the distance learning days will look different than in the spring.
Molalla High School Principal Brad Berzinski said primary instruction would take place during on-campus days, and the distance learning days would play a supportive role.
MHS Associate Principal Sara Bean reiterated that sentiment, noting the in-person days will be especially important for special-education students who will have in-person contact with their teachers and case managers.
As of now, the schools are looking at splitting students in grades 3-12 into two cohorts and having each cohort attend consecutive days of the week for in-person instruction with Wednesday as a distance-learning day for all and a cleaning day for staff. As an example, cohort A would attend school Monday and Tuesday and learn remotely Wednesday through Friday; cohort B would learn remotely Monday through Wednesday and attend school Thursday and Friday.
It's unclear yet how staff will divide the cohorts.
In-person learning days would look similar to a regular school day that students are accustomed to.
But Berzinski warned that COVID-19 dictates the circumstances.
"There's also that possibility that we're going to have to start the year completely in distance learning for all students and that at some point down the road, we go to that hybrid structure," Berzinski said. "But one way or another, I see a strong likelihood that we will be in that hybrid structure at some point this school year, sooner or later."
So while planning is underway, much is still uncertain, and the staff understands how difficult this is.
"I'm feeling for our families," said Superintendent Tony Mann, "and I'm feeling for our kids."
School nurse Jan Olson said it's difficult to not have all the answers for families under rapidly changing circumstances.
"We're doing the best we can to ensure that we do support them because there is a lot of anxiety out there," Olson said. "I think that's human nature when you don't know what's going to happen. … It's a lot to digest for our community and for our staff and for our students."
While many questions remain unanswered, the school district invites the community to ask away. A question form and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the website at molallariv.k12.or.us.
Colton has shared its three draft blueprints on the district website at colton.k12.or.us and is engaging the community on an ongoing basis through a survey available online at bit.ly/3gbjU7j. Answers to questions asked through the survey are posted on the website.
As of now, Colton students in grades K-8 will attend school in-person four days a week with Fridays off, which is Colton's regular school schedule. Students in these grades will be grouped into cohorts that will stay distanced from other cohorts. This will help reduce potential exposure to COVID-19 and aid in contact tracing.
Colton High School students will be split into two cohorts — upperclassmen and underclassmen — attending school on alternate days.
"Due to the complexity of being a small comprehensive high school, educators wearing multiple hats (teaching many subject areas), and trying to meet graduation requirements for all learners, we had to move to a hybrid model," said Superintendent Koreen Barreras-Brown.
Freshman and sophomore students will be at school on Mondays and Wednesdays and distance learning at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The junior and senior classes will be at school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and distance learning on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Each high school grade will be further divided into three cohorts to limit exposure. Student transitions will be limited by having teachers rotate from classroom to classroom.
Colton will adjust the blueprints slightly based on ODE's updates to its guidance on July 22, according to Barreras-Brown.
But again, Barreras-Brown warned that things may not go as planned.
"COVID-19 will determine if we open to full in-person, hybrid, or full distance learning," Barreras-Brown said.
The Canby School District shared its plans with the community through a series of Zoom meetings last week.
Feedback from families who attended will be taken into consideration as long as it complies with ODE's guidance.
In Canby, the school year start date has been pushed back to Sept. 8. The district does not have space to accommodate all students at once, so students in grades K-12 will participate in a hybrid learning model, save for those who elect to enroll in Canby Online Learning Academy.
Those who do opt into full-time online learning are asked to commit to a full year. The details of the academy are being finalized, according to District spokesperson Autumn Foster, and more information will be available soon.
For those participating in the hybrid model, students districtwide will learn at home on Mondays. Cohort A, students with last names A-L, will attend in-person Tuesdays and Thursdays and learn at home Wednesdays and Fridays. Cohort B, students with last names M-Z, will attend in-person Wednesdays and Fridays and learn at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
While some parents said they would prefer cohorts to be split by upper- and underclassmen, High School Associate Principal Ben Winegar said the current cohort divide keeps families of students in different grades attending on the same schedule.
The school days will run on a slightly different schedule than in past years. Elementary school will run from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Middle school will go from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. with periods 1-3 on the first day of in-person learning and periods 4-6 on the second day. High school will be 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with all four periods (as opposed to the usual five) every in-person day.
For at-home learning days, the district has made a significant investment to provide devices for every student. Previously iPads were provided to students in grades 6-12.
Electives such as choir, band and P.E. will still be available but may "look different" than in the past, staff cautioned.
Canby is ramping up its cleaning game by purchasing Clorox Total 360® machines that use an electrostatic sprayer and cleaner to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
As for freshman orientation, that's still in question.
"One of our main concerns is definitely making sure that we welcome our ninth graders into Canby High School," said Cari Sloan, associate principal. "We know that that transition is so so important, and we are working on plans for that, but we do not have an answer yet exactly what that may or will look like."
On that note, an anonymous attendee at the high school meeting asked whether Principal Greg Dinse would keep with tradition, sporting his kilt and playing bagpipes on the first day of school to usher in the ninth graders. He said he plans to.
With many unknowns, the school district is remaining flexible and preparing for every scenario, Foster said. A list of frequently asked questions will be available soon. Visit the website canby.12.or.us for more information.
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