Face masks will not be required, though they are encouraged for those who have not recieved the COVID-19 vaccine

COURTESY PHOTO: ESTACADA SCHOOL DISTRICT - Students will return to five days of in-person school under Estacada's plan for the upcoming year.When school resumes in Estacada in September, classes will look different than they did the previous year.

Unlike last school year, which started with students in distance learning, the 2021-22 school year will begin with students in classrooms five days a week.

Social distancing will be maintained when possible, and face masks will be optional, district leaders said. Students, employees and visitors will not need to have received a COVID-19 vaccination to enter schools.

The district released the final version of its 2021-22 safety protocols on Tuesday, July 20, though the guidance may change if COVID-19 protocols from the county or state are updated.

During a Facebook Live event on Thursday, July 15, Estacada School District Superintendent Ryan Carpenter said the district's return to school plan needs to represent Estacada's community.

"We are not Portland, Oregon. We are not Bend, Oregon. We are not Roseburg, Oregon. We are Estacada, and we need to make a plan that fits our community about how we can best serve our kids, given the current pandemic," Carpenter said.

To view the entirety of Estacada's COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year, click here.

The plan will follow state requirements and place an emphasis on student learning and closing achievement gaps, Carpenter said. The district says it will communicate the plan to families in a timely manner.

Drafts of the plan have circulated since earlier this summer. The district says it heard from more than 300 families and staff members about the proposed plan.

"We've had a lot of different opportunities to collect different pockets of very sound feedback based on our plan," Carpenter said.

Looking to the upcoming year

Though face masks will not be required inside school buildings, the district recommends them for those who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. CARPENTER

"The Estacada School District is not requiring face masks. It is also not saying no face masks," Carpenter said. "What it is saying is that families get to choose what they would like their child to wear in terms of safety precautions when coming to school. We're saying the same for our employees."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has required face coverings on school district buses, vans, and transportation at all times.

Carpenter added that it will be "monumentally important that we create a culture of welcoming and acceptance in our school buildings."

"There are going to be some kids and families who are going to come to school wearing a face mask. We need to teach our children right now that that's absolutely an OK decision and that child is welcomed without any comments whatsoever," he said. "There are also going to be some or many students who are going to come to our school without a face mask. It is vitally important that we make that child feel welcomed and supported inside the school district"

Carpenter said as it's critical that families and staff create a culture where students feel welcomed.

"At the end of the day, we just need to be focused on teaching and learning, and doing that to the best of our ability," he said.

Physical distancing of three feet will be maintained when possible.

"Teachers are going to have that lens in our school buildings, and leaders are going to have that lens of trying to keep students socially distanced from each other to mitigate the spread, as well as to mitigate the quarantine process that needs to take place," Carpenter said. "But that being said, there will be some times in small group settings in the classroom, and P.E. and music and various different spots, where we will be unable to maintain that."

Those times of close contact, Carpenter said, make it important for unvaccinated students to wear masks, but Carpenter said the ultimate decision will be with families.

Per requirements from the state, individuals who have not received the vaccine must undergo a ten day quarantine if they spent 15 minutes or more within six feet of an individual who has caught the virus.

"Even though we're getting closer to being back to the normal sense of school, there is still going to need to be flexibility because we're still going to be required to have to send people home to quarantine," Carpenter said.

Students in quarantine will have the opportunity to attend class remotely and make up any missed assignments.

Though parents or students will need to fill out a pre-entry screening before entering school buildings, temperature checks will not take place. If a student has received the COVID-19 vaccine, a pre-screening will not be required.

"It is still absolutely critical that we continue to follow these protocols and we're going to ask your help to do it again," Carpenter said. "We've pulled back a lot of different screeners and a lot of different things. And we're counting on you, the parent, to make sure that you're not sending your child with symptoms onto our campus."

Unlike during the previous school year, distance learning will not be available for most students.

"Being a smaller school, we have smaller resources, and we want to make sure all of those resources are efficiently invested in serving our students in-person so that we can continue to close those gaps, continue to allow access for students who need that access the most, and most importantly make sure that our kids are getting a best-in-class educational experience," Carpenter said. "There are some great partners at our charter school that we work with, and so if you need help, we're more than happy to help you with that alternative education process. We want to make sure that you have the choice to make."

Emily Lindstrand
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