Lake Oswego School District pushes reopening date
Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz announced Friday evening, Jan. 22, that the district is changing its plans for reopening schools.
While the initial plan was to reopen for in-person learning at elementary schools beginning the first week of February — with all elementary students back in the classroom on a part-time basis by Feb. 25 — de la Cruz said further discussions with teachers and staff, consultation with health authorities and logistical issues prompted the change in schedule.
The district's initial reopening plan saw pushback from the Lake Oswego Education Association, a union representing 440 of the district's teachers, counselors and specialists. Earlier last week, de la Cruz held virtual town halls with personnel at each of the district's elementary schools to further address those concerns.
"After listening to compelling rationale from our teachers and staff, consulting with our local public health authorities, coordinating with vaccine distribution leads, and weighing operational logistics, LOSD needs to change the start for returning elementary students to a later date in February," de la Cruz said in an email to district families Jan 22.
"I will share a new timeline as soon as possible. Also, I want to share that we are making tentative plans to transition our middle and high schools at the start of the fourth quarter," she said.
LOEA President Kelly Fitzsimmons said educators were relieved to learn of the delay to in-person learning.
"There is no other way to say it: Dr. de la Cruz heard that we were scared," Fitzsimmons said in a press release Monday, Jan. 25.
The new start date for in-person learning has yet to be set but the LOEA is urging the district to allow enough time for district educators to be fully inoculated before returning to the classroom.
"There is a sense of reprieve," Fitzsimmons said. "Teachers who were weighing having to quit or take unpaid leave now hope that they will return vaccinated and protected from the worst health impacts of the virus."
In her email, de la Cruz listed several factors in the decision to push the in-person start date, including the need for staff to be vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts throughout Clackamas County and class placement decisions.
"We are working closely with the vaccine distributors and expediting a schedule to vaccinate our school personnel," she wrote. "Even with vaccinations, LOSD is committed to strict adherence to mitigating protocols that are proven to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools and protect teachers, staff, students and families from bringing home the communicable disease."
Regarding case counts, de la Cruz said Clackamas County Public Health officials advised waiting for numbers to trend further downward.
"Lower community spread will allow for a more stable hybrid in-person experience," she wrote.
Finally, after families were given the option to reconsider their choices between the district's comprehensive distance learning model — which was intended to transition to hybrid learning when the state allowed it — and the online-only curriculum referred to as LO Online, around 200 requests came in for placement changes at the elementary level.
"26% of our elementary students will be in LO Online and 74% of our elementary students plan to participate in hybrid in-person. We are making class placement decisions that minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the impact of students, teachers and families," de la Cruz wrote.
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