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Elementary students will be first in the schoolhouse under the so-called hybrid plan

PMG FILE PHOTO - Gresham-Barlow School District is opening the schoolhouse doors to all students beginning April 1.

Gresham-Barlow School District officials said it would begin opening the schoolhouse doors to all students, starting with elementary pupils, on April 1.

Gresham-Barlow schools will open in the so-called hybrid model with only half the students in the building at a time.

"We realize it's not perfect," Katrise Perera, Gresham-Barlow superintendent acknowledged of the hybrid plan. Hybrid is the only way schools can open under the pandemic safety guidelines schools must follow, administrators said.

The district rejiggered earlier tentative hybrid plans after feedback from families, educators and other stakeholders, Perera said.

"We listened and we heard," she said.

Under the latest hybrid plan, discussed at the Thursday, Feb. 4, school board meeting, students will study online or independently at home in the mornings and all day Wednesdays. Half will learn in school buildings on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and the other half on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

Students in all grades will be divided into two groups, cohorts A and B, depending on the student's address. Students with odd-numbered addresses will be in cohort A and those with even numbered addresses will be in cohort B.

Kindergarten and first grade students in cohort B will begin April 1 and cohort A will begin April 5. Grades 2-5 cohort B will begin April 8 and all elementary kids in cohort B will be in school on April 12.

Elementary students will be in school from 12:05 to 2:35 p.m.

Middle and high schoolers in cohort A will start April 19 and cohort B on April 22. Middle schoolers will be in buildings from 12:45 to 3 p.m. and high schoolers 12:35 to 3:25 p.m. The afternoon shifts will allow students to go straight to sports practices and after-school activities.

Middle and high school students will be able to take classes, rotating between teachers and subjects.

Gresham-Barlow and most Oregon schools have been closed for nearly a year as the COVID-19 pandemic rampaged across the country. After mandating strict reopening guidelines, on Jan. 19, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the decision was up to school districts.

When they reopen, school districts must follow more than 160 pandemic safety guidelines when students are in the buildings, including 6 feet of distance, 35 square feet of space each in the classroom and contact with no more than 100 people per day in school.

Those rules mean the hybrid model is the only one open to schools because schools don't have enough space to have everyone in buildings at the same time.

Gresham-Barlow had started very limited in-person instruction for small groups of certain students on March 1 for two hours per day, four days per week.

Teachers in many districts across Oregon have pushed back against reopening because they did not feel safe returning to school. School employees have been eligible for vaccinations since Jan. 25, and many have been inoculated.

Gresham-Barlow administrators said they wanted to wait to reopen until after spring break so students would have consistency.

Lisa Riggs, assistant superintendent for curriculum, said students will bring their computer tablets to school with them and "make sure they are charged."

There are protocols in place if a student or staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19 or feels unwell at school.

Students will not eat in classrooms as had been earlier planned, but will come to school after lunch.

Administrators acknowledged that the hybrid model can make it difficult for families to arrange childcare.

"These are difficult times for all," Perera said.

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