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As the pandemic persists, students will continue to study at home under a tentative blueprint

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - 
Reynolds School District, unlike nearby districts, is planning for students to continue to learn remotely when school opens in the fall.

Reynolds School District's students will likely continue to learn remotely in the fall during the COVID-19 pandemic, unlike students in other local districts that are tentatively planning to have most students back in school buildings roughly half-time.

"We're leaning toward a comprehensive distance learning model" for fall reopening, Danna Diaz, Reynolds superintendent said at a virtual school board meeting Wednesday, July 23.

Most other area districts are provisionally planning to teach kids using a hybrid model. Portland, Gresham-Barlow and Centennial districts have said they will likely use a hybrid plan during the pandemic.

Under the variations of a hybrid scenario, students would go to school a couple of days per week and learn remotely the other days. So, half the student body would be on campus at any one time.

Schools are trying to plan for fall reopening during an impossibly uncertain time as the unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic persists. Already, more than 270 Oregonians have died from the disease and new cases are reported daily.

Diaz said a survey of Reynolds staff isn't due back until July 31, and the administration is working with its unions to craft a back-to-school plan that is safe and works best for everyone.

Reynolds, like Gresham-Barlow, is looking into offering families a completely online school, separate from the distance learning plan for all kids. The online school would appeal to families who don't feel safe sending their students back to school at all and might move to an online charter school.

As the pandemic eases, Reynolds hopes to get its 10,750 students back in buildings.

None of the fall reopening options work for all families. In some families all caregivers must work and cannot stay home for online school or the students' days home in hybrid learning. Some families are concerned about the safety of their students, family members and caregivers and don't want students back in school buildings at all.

Earlier on Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown said kids ages 5 and older will have to wear face coverings when they are in public beginning Friday, July 24. That means students will have to wear masks in school if they come back to buildings in September.

The state is distributing 5 million masks, so obtaining masks is not a barrier for school attendance.

If schools are going to open to students in the fall, they are required to maintain six feet of social distancing and each student has to have 35 square feet of space in classrooms. There are multiple other restrictions issued by the Oregon Department of Education for students in school buildings.

Plans also are being crafted to give schools direction on closing schools if a school or district has an outbreak of the coronavirus.

President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have pushed for school buildings to open nationwide. The administration has threatened to withhold federal funding to districts that don't open schools completely. Some school district employee unions have pushed back against opening school buildings because they are worried about the safety of their members.

Robert Neu, assistant superintendent of human capital management at Reynolds, said that some staff members are exploring options for leave of absences because they are concerned about their health or the health of family members if they return to the classroom "in these scary times."


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