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At least one type of school is open for in-person learning -- with strict pandemic protocols in place

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Keli Cronen, Director of the Homestead Schoolhouse preschool on S.E. Woodstock Boulevard, takes the temperature of five year-old Syd Engel-Nesbitt before he enters the school for the morning. Syd is in his last year of Pre-K at the Homestead. In September, several preschools in Inner Southeast opened for "in person" instruction, fun, and play. One we've chosen as an example is the Homestead Schoolhouse preschool on Woodstock Boulevard across from Otto's, which also operates the Homestead Annex preschool in the southeast wing of All Saints' Episcopal Church, one block west.

The Homestead originally closed last March, going on to host virtual learning in the spring, and it was closed all summer. Preschool Director Keli Cronen, and her husband Kiley Cronen, tell THE BEE that it is exciting for everyone to have the children back in the buildings, and outside for play, in both locations.

"When we heard in mid-August that we were given approval to open with [protocol] guidelines from Governor Brown, we decided to go ahead and have in-person classes," reports Director Keli. "We held our annual open house – but it was virtual – where we explained our plans. Then we sent out a video to parents showing the new protocols, to help them see what would be required of the students, staff, and parents, and to learn about the year going forward.

"All staff wear face coverings, and all teachers wear a [plastic] shield, when we greet the kids at the front door, or at circle time for songs and stories." Shields are also worn by teachers when holding small groups or reading groups. Keli reports that most children also agree to wear masks.

Four more teachers were hired, to make possible smaller groups of children, and to help with extra cleaning and sanitizing. Frequent hand washing is required of everyone, especially after certain activities.

Maximum class size is set by the State of Oregon at sixteen, but currently at the Homestead Schoolhouse class sizes are two or more students smaller than that. The Cronens say they have a few children attending who previously went to other preschools that are not yet open in person, and they are expecting that classes will fill up as parents become more confident about sending children back for in-person instruction.

"We have a Spanish class at the Annex for 3-5 year olds, and we are split into smaller groups for art and music. Then [at both locations] we are all together for free-play and academic time. We have two cohorts of classes at both locations. One class is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and the other is Tuesday and Thursday," Keli reports. "We have a few kindergarteners who are doing virtual time at home on the days they aren't here. The parents are excited to have their children back, and the children are really happy to be back with their friends."

There are a number of other preschools in Inner Southeast Portland open for in-person instruction – including Blooming Gardens and Puddletown Montessori in Woodstock; and Little Seeds Farm, St. Agatha, and Sellwood Community House Preschools in Sellwood. All are following safe protocol guidelines outlined by the state during the pandemic. Some others are still doing distance learning, and intending to re-evaluate the situation in early November.

For a complete list of available preschools in this part of town, go online and search for "Preschools in Southeast Portland".


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