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Learning in Estacada will be online through Oct. 30, when the possibility for a hybrid model will be reevaluated

COURTESY PHOTO: FIRZA PRATAMA ON UNSPLASH   - The Estacada School District will start the upcoming year with a virtual learning model.

Estacada schools will officially begin the 2020-21 school year with a virtual learning model.

During a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5, the Estacada School Board unanimously approved superintendent Ryan Carpenter's proposal to operate under a comprehensive distance learning plan through Friday, Oct. 30, based on recent state metrics for reopening schools.

In late July, Gov. Kate Brown announced that prior to offering in-person instruction, the county in which a school district is located must meet multiple standards for three weeks in a row, including 10 or fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and 5% or less increase in positive tests per week. Additionally, the state must have 5% or less positive tests as a whole.

The rule is slightly less strict for kindergarten through third-grade classes, and for rural school districts with fewer than 100 students, which can offer in-person education if their counties have 30 or fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over seven days.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, COVID-19 cases in Clackamas County ranged from 34.4 to 31.6 for the past several weeks. During the same period, the test-positive rate was between 3.5% and 4.3%. Across the state, Oregon's case rate per 100,000 ranged between 45.9 and 57.1 for the past several weeks. The test-positive rate was between 5.1% and 5.9%.

"At the end of the day, utilizing these metrics and having to be three consecutive weeks in a row, based on the case rate for 100,000, there is no way we would be able to open our schools within the next three weeks," Carpenter said.

Because the opening guidelines for students in kindergarten through third grade and specific student populations would learn better in-person are not as stringent, school district leaders will reassess the COVID-19 metric around mid-September and consider the possibility of offering hybrid learning for those groups.

Prior to the new state mandates, the Estacada School Board had approved a plan for hybrid learning during the 2020-21 school year. The model also included an option for virtual education.

Carpenter noted that the flexibility offered by the district's initial plan will be helpful as the district embarks on virtual learning for the start of the school year.

"We are prepared for this," he said.

School district leaders will reevaluate the COVID-19 case numbers closer to the Oct. 30. date. If the trends seem like a hybrid learning model is possible, schools will begin preparing for that.

To allow educators to best support students in the completely online environment, the school district will have a one-year teacher on special assignment focused on technology.

Carpenter pointed out the value in setting a specific date to reevaluate the school district's ability to offer the hybrid model.

"One thing I want to avoid if we just solely rely on a week-by-week, metric-by-metric system, is the potential roller coaster that we create for our families and our employees. Things are looking good, and we start to ramp things up, and then things look bad the very next week," he continued. "I don't like the stress that that plays on our community."

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