New guidelines from the state on reopening schools for in-person instruction have made it easier for districts to eventually achieve that goal, but an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases around the state is halting the plans of many districts as the virus runs rampant.
The Newberg School District is no exception. Keeping an eye on the data for Yamhill and Washington counties, where the vast majority of students and staff live, the district hoped to begin a transition to hybrid learning in the coming weeks or months. But given the pandemic's trajectory, things aren't looking promising.
In order for schools to return to a hybrid model, which blends in-person learning with distance learning, they must have an average of 50 to 100 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over a span of two weeks and meet a threshold of 5% or less test positivity. Yamhill County's current numbers are 170.3 cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 8.4%.
"With this week's data, we remain unable to open," district communications coordinator Gregg Koskela said in a message to the community last week. "Yamhill County has seen cases rise substantially this week. Across the state, hospitalizations are increasing and ICU beds are filling. Hospitals are beginning to cancel elective surgeries and other procedures as they did last spring because they need the capacity for COVID cases. We all need to work together to slow the spread by not gathering in groups, staying home as much as possible and [wearing] masks while keeping at least 6 feet apart from others."
More information on school metrics data for the previous two weeks can be found at https://bit.ly/3pm6WbC. For now, the Newberg School District is focusing on distance learning and working on plans for the eventual return to hybrid learning, however far off that might be given the state of the virus.
The district is also drumming up ways to provide in-person support to students in a safe and limited manner. More information on that plan is expected in the coming weeks. Some special education students have received in-person support in the past as needed, as have a handful of other students who may need additional guidance.
"Administrators are continuing to work on criteria for limited in-person (LIP) support for certain students," Koskela said. "LIP can occur even if numbers are too high, but it does not replace core instruction. We will keep you informed as those plans develop."
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