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The district plans to have all elementary students back to in-person learning by Feb. 25.

FILE - Lake Oswego High students leave school in February amidst uncertainty about when they would reurn due to the COVID-19 outbreak.As districts across the state closed for winter break, Gov. Kate Brown announced new COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools. The Dec. 23 announcement called for schools to reopen for in-person instruction as soon as possible, with a goal of Feb. 15.

On Tuesday, Jan. 5, Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz announced that the district's goal is to open the first week of February.

"We are optimistic that with safety at the center, we can begin a gradual and safe return to AM/PM Hybrid in-person school with the well-being of teachers, staff, students and families as our top priority," de la Cruz said in a message to the district community.

The LO school district is the first in the Portland metro area to announce concrete plans for a return to classroom usage, though Hillsboro school leaders are also considering it.

Director of Communications Mary Kay Larson said the distance learning model the district currently uses transfers well to in-person learning. That, coupled with the fact that LOSD did much of its planning for a return to in-person learning this summer (including negotiations with teachers and staff), will make for a fairly quick transition.

Under the early February timeline, kindergarteners would be phased in first. This provides time for families and staff to plan for this schedule change and make arrangements.

Kindergarteners across the district will return to hybrid in-person learning the first week of February, followed by first graders the second week. According to the schedule the district released in a letter to the community, all elementary school students will be going to school in person by Feb. 25.

Plans are still being made for when middle and high school students will return to in-person learning.

Through the phasing-in process, all students currently enrolled in LO Online, the district's online-only school, will remain in that curriculum.

Limited in-person instruction will continue for grade levels not yet phased in.

"On one hand we're really excited to welcome students and staff back into buildings," de la Cruz told the Review.

On the other hand, she said, the district feels the need to move very cautiously.

"I would say what I'm feeling more than anything is very pensive," she said.

To families and staff feeling hesitant about this change, de la Cruz said that's a natural feeling.

"We are all experiencing something extraordinary together at this time … our experience right now with limited in-person instruction in every one of our schools, thank goodness, is one that demonstrates that with our safety protocols in place we are able to have students and staff in-person safely … safety is paramount in all of this," she said.

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