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The district is moving toward limited in-person instruction for vulnerable learners.

Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz announced that the district has begun plans to bring back students for in-person instruction in phases.

The Oregon Department of Education allows for kindergarten through third grade students to be brought back for in-person instruction when a school district's county has fewer than 30 positive coronavirus cases per 100,000 people for three consecutive weeks, signifying a downward trend.

Although Clackamas County is currently at 35.4 positive cases per 100,000 people, the district is hopeful for fewer positive cases over the next three weeks and will continue to plan for the point when bringing students back is possible.

De la Cruz said K-3 is considered a vulnerable learning group because students in that age range are still gaining literacy skills and have a harder time accessing remote learning.

Aside from K-3 learning, ODE also allows for an exception to the health metrics for what's referred to as "limited in-person instruction."

This is small group supplemental instruction that doesn't happen every day of the school week.

"It's considered supplemental to comprehensive distance learning," de la Cruz said.

Since it's an exception to the health guidance, the district can do this at any time and doesn't need to meet particular health metrics.

She said students may qualify for this exception if they are English language learners, need help accessing online instruction, qualify for special education services, or participate in a program that requires more hands-on learning experiences.

The district plans to begin limited in-person instruction as early as the week of Oct. 5 with special education evaluations.

"Not to target any specific group, but we do know that students for whom there's a special education evaluation due, we need to be meeting the special education law and timelines around that," de la Cruz said.

She said planning for those evaluations has thus far involved ensuring that ventilation systems, cleaning systems and signage are ready, as well as notifying parents.

"The other planning that we're doing … is looking at students who are in categories of learners who need additional support and qualify for this limited in-person instruction," she said.

De la Cruz said limited in-person instruction exists as an exception to provide support to students for whom distance learning is not effective.

"We're creating a protocol list of criteria for consideration as well as a safe, phasing-in plan," de la Cruz said.

In addition, the district is putting together info sessions for teachers and classified staff on building ventilation, cleaning and contact tracing. All teachers and staff who return to in-person instruction will receive additional training on COVID-19 guidelines.

De la Cruz advised the community to wear a mask, watch their distance and wash their hands to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 so students can be back in schools.

"In order to get our students back in school, we've got to drive those metrics down. So we all need to contribute to that," she said.

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