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Proposed plan for 2020-21 school year would give parents the option of hybrid, completely virtual lessons

COURTESY PHOTO: ESTACADA SCHOOL DISTRICT - Learning will look different during the upcoming school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What will classrooms look like in Estacada next school year?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, that's a question that school district leaders are working with the community to determine.

Under the proposed plan, which is expected to be considered by the Estacada School Board on Thursday, July 9, families will have the option to choose a combination of in-person and online learning or a completely virtual program for their students during the upcoming school year.

"I still need your help and partnership to keep our expectations high, like we did in the spring when we had the states in a high-quality, virtual learning environment during the school closure (earlier this year)," Estacada School District Superintendent Ryan Carpenter told families during a Facebook Live event on Monday, June 22.

Along with having community members on the planning committee, school district leaders sought feedback on the proposal through a survey that was open from June 19-24.

"We are going to build something together that is best in class for our kids, and I'm highly confident that working together with you as a team, we can make something great, regardless of the circumstances to keep the learning going in our great community," Carpenter said.

Because of the current public health crisis, the building capacity for the upcoming school year is estimated at 50% of the student population at one time. There will only be approximately 15 students per classroom. Additionally, social distancing will limit school buses to 25 students.

Several schedules for the hybrid model are being considered, including 50% of students learning in-person Monday through Thursday one week and learning virtually the next week, while the remaining 50% of students are in school buildings, or half of the students are learning in-person two days a week and learning virtually for the remaining two days. In either scenario, schedules for siblings would be aligned.

"We need to make sure that we can offer a high-quality education to meet your choice," Carpenter said, emphasizing the importance of families having access to either option for schooling next year.

He noted that there are approximately 90 safety standards from the Oregon Department of Education that the school district is required to follow.

"The No. 1 question that is coming to us right now is, 'Why not open all the way up?'" Carpenter said. "There are very specific guidelines and regulations that our school district must comply with that were released from the Oregon Department of Education, as well as the state of Oregon."

School district leaders have estimated that reopening the schools in compliance with the necessary standards will cost approximately $600,000.

When schools do open, students in third through 12 grades likely will be able to access their classrooms remotely through smart technology if they are learning from home. Younger students likely will work with a teacher online while they are home.

Along with deep cleaning on Fridays, students will be asked to clean their areas after using them.

Students will not be required to wear face masks, nor will they be punished for breaking social distancing.

"No child will receive punitive repercussions for just being a kid. We're going to continue to help them as they learn new procedures," Carpenter said, noting that although Gov. Kate Brown's guidelines stipulate wearing face masks in indoor public spaces, the school's guidelines do not require them for students.

Though masks are not mandated for most staff members, those who work in transportation, nutrition services and in close contact with students as specialists will be required to wear them.

"Regardless of the constraints that we're under, we are still maintaining the highest expectation to make sure your child is ready for the next grade level, ready for college and competitive against other students in other districts, and we will not waiver on that expectation that you hold for us, as well as the expectation that we have for ourselves to meet your child's needs," Carpenter said. "We're going to continue to build them."

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