Newberg schools release reopening plan
After months of preparation, discussion with the community and monitoring the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Newberg School District announced its reopening plan on Friday. The plan, which is subject to change in the months between now and the start of the school year, embraces a hybrid learning model that includes two days of in-person instruction and two days of remote learning per week.
The plans, according to a release by the district, follow the guidelines of the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education. A full reopening was not possible for the district given the constraints it faces; it may move to fully remote learning if the pandemic worsens as fall approaches.
"In general, with the requirements from ODE for social distancing and number of students, we have two constraints that keep us from bringing everybody back all the time," school district spokesman Gregg Koskela said last week, prior to the official plan's release. "One is classroom space, which brings up issues of keeping six feet of distance along with requirements for a certain amount of square feet per student. We also have the budget constraints of staffing and how to make all of that work."
The "hybrid" model of part in-person, part distance learning applies to all students K-12. Parents will also have the option to sign their child up for full-time distance learning if interested.
Under the hybrid approach, students will be split into "cohorts" that attend in-person classes on different days, so as not to have the entire student population jammed into classrooms. This ensures social distancing, which will be required at schools. Face coverings are a requirement for students as well under the governor's order.
"Each cohort will attend school in person two days a week and will have distance learning activities for two days a week," the district's release said. "The distance learning materials will be standards-based and aligned with the in-person learning and will be more comprehensive and robust than last spring. Work must be completed and will be graded.
"It is also possible that conditions with COVID-19 may change and those conditions may move us to begin the year entirely in distance learning. We are preparing now for that possibility and would likely move to the hybrid model described in these plans later in the year when the situation with COVID-19 improves."
The district has also established an online learning program called the Chehalem Online Academy. In lieu of online charter schools, which some parents have explored during the pandemic as options for their children, the district is providing this separate option to replace the hybrid model for those interested.
As far as safety precautions go, the district is using the split cohorts as a way to limit class sizes, but is taking a number of other measures to prevent spread of the virus. Social distancing, contact tracing, constant sanitization of surfaces and required mask wearing will all be in place to keep students safe. Symptomatic students or those who have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 are required to stay home from school. If they show up to school with symptoms of the virus they will be isolated before a parent or guardian comes to pick them up.
Health evaluations will be a constant for students as they enter the building and once in the classroom there will be regular rotation of staff members to keep them safe as well.
"As much as possible, students will remain in a classroom and staff will rotate," the release said. "Face coverings are required for staff and all students. Markings in the hallways will designate one-way traffic to reduce exposure and lunch will happen in classrooms. Extra cleaning of surfaces will occur throughout the day and when different students use the same spaces."
A limited number of students who require additional support will attend classes in-person four days a week. The rest will be on the split schedule if the plan remains as is. Cohort assignments for each student will be released at a later date.
For elementary school students, cohorts will either attend in-person classes on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, depending on which cohort they're assigned to. Students will arrive to their in-person days in a staggered schedule from 8:30 to 9 a.m., with school running from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Middle school students will also be assigned to either a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday in-person schedule, arriving on a staggered schedule between 7:45 and 8 a.m. The school day runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those students, with a unique "4x4" approach to classes outlined in the district's release.
"Instead of eight classes over an entire semester, students will focus intently on four classes for the first quarter and four different classes for the second quarter," the release said. "This schedule allows the most flexibility for assigning staff and gives students a better ability to focus on less classes at any given time."
Newberg High School students will follow the exact same schedule as middle schoolers, with a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday in-person bloc and an arrival between 7:45 and 8 a.m. They, too, will go with the "4x4" approach for their classes in order to meet credit and graduation requirements. Some students, as the release mentioned, can attend in-person four days a week if they need extra academic help or are not on track to graduate.
Catalyst School students will have their own unique plan and each school will have a differing approach to where students arrive, how classrooms are set up and how students are directed through the hallways — all based on the individual school's layout. More information and a detailed account of the district's current reopening plan is available at newberg.k12.or.us/district/fall-reopening-plans-july-24.
"We know this uncertainty is challenging for students, families and staff," according to the release. "We know a hybrid model brings many difficulties for families. We are doing the best we can in this environment to keep students and staff safe and to provide a quality education for all students. We will continue to prepare, respond and adapt to conditions and guidelines that we know will continue to change in the weeks ahead."
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