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Madison High School will open to about 20 kids who could use some extra academic support

COURTESY PHOTO: AUSTIN PACHECO FOR UNSPLASH - Madison High School will open the doors for 20 students Thursday, Jan 28.

A small group of Madison High School students will be back in school beginning Thursday, Jan. 28, the first group of Portland students to return since March when school buildings were shuttered.

In a letter to Madison parents, administrators said "Our first group of students will be less than 20 (two classes of 10 or less) and they will come in for 2-4 hours per week in the afternoon."

The letter explained "LIPI (limited in-person learning) is optional for students and voluntary for staff." The students coming into Madison will still be required to attend their current online courses and "schedule getting support from their LIPI staff member."

The first students back will be kids struggling with distance learning and failing several classes, the letter said.

Madison administrators said they were starting small "to ensure we are doing all we can do to reduce any risk, have every recommended safety protocol in place, and support students who need it."

The next group of Portland Public Schools will start opening their doors to small groups of students the following week, beginning Monday, Feb. 1, Karen Werstein, spokeswoman for the district said via email.

The next group includes Beach, King, Hayhurst, James John, Rigler, Vestal, Boise-Eliot-Humboldt, Rosa Parks, Scott and Sitton elementary schools, the specialized DART program and Headstart and pre-kindergarten programs.

It also includes Creston, Lent, Lee, Winterhaven and Cesar Chavez K-8 schools and Grant and Alliance high schools.

As at Madison, the first groups of students will be in buildings only two hours per day and will engage in remote learning the rest of the time. Students will be limited to groups of about a dozen in a cohort to limit the number of students each comes in contact with.

Other districts in the Portland-metro area also are launching some limited in-person learning.

The 1,200-student Corbett School District is bringing back 50 students beginning Monday, Jan. 25. Hillsboro School District launched limited in-person learning for three cohorts of students with special needs and early learners on Jan. 11. Lake Oswego kindergartners are scheduled to head back to school on Feb. 4.

Although school districts can decide for themselves when to reopen, they still must follow 164 pandemic safety rules, which require entry screening, 35 square feet per person, 6 feet of social distancing and mandatory mask wearing. Under these rules, only some of a student body can be in a schoolhouse at one time.

School districts are watching rates of COVID-19 infection and want school employees to have the opportunity to get inoculated against the virus before opening on a wider basis. Educators are eligible for vaccinations beginning Jan. 23, but with the rocky rollout of Oregon's inoculation program, it is unclear when the vaccine will be available to the state's teachers, school bus drivers, nutrition workers, teachers' aides and other school employees.

Madison students are attending classes at the old Marshal High School campus while the Madison building on 82d Avenue is being rebuilt. The school said families will get more information about limited in-person learning Tuesday, Jan. 26.

The Madison letter acknowledged "that coming back to in-person school and seeing students is exciting, and it also can be nerve-wracking for students, families and staff."


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