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Students won't attend in-person classes at beginning of 2020-21 school year

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Plastic cups inserted into the chain-link fence outside a Scappoose school spelled out 'we miss you' earlier this year when schools were shuttered to slow the spread of COVID-19. Updated July 30 with new information from district.

Students in Scappoose won't be headed to school for the first day of classes this fall.

The Scappoose School District announced this week that school will start on Sept. 8, but only virtually.

The district previously announced plans to reopen with a combination of in-class and online instruction. But on Tuesday, July 28, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced new mandates outlining when schools would be permitted to reopen.

Schools will only be allowed to open for on-site instruction when the county has had three consecutive weeks with 10 or fewer new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, and no more than 5% of tests have come back positive. Columbia County has stayed below a 5% positive rate, but the state also requires that the statewide rate be 5% or lower. That standard has not been met.

In Columbia County, that would mean there must be five or fewer cases each week. But in the past week, there were seven. The week before, July 16-22, there were four; the week before that, July 9-15, there were 14.

"Countries that have managed to safely reopen school buildings have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing. Presently, Oregon has neither," Scappoose School District Superintendent Tim Porter wrote to families. "The escalating infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not yet under control."

"I know for many that this is a disheartening message to receive," Porter wrote after saying the school year would start with a "Comprehensive Distance Learning" model.

"There's nothing we want more than to be together again in our schools. Our district leaders will continue to work with staff, students, and families as we reshape our fall plans for this current, unfortunate reality. We will continue to reach out to you with updates and opportunities to provide input."

While no one can say for certain how long online-only instruction will last, some school districts gave a minimum duration. Scappoose did not give a minimum duration initially, but on July 30, said the online-only model is expected to last at least through the first quarter of school, meaning Nov. 6, 2020.

Earlier this month, families were asked to fill out a form online to select if their child would attend school in-person under the proposed two-cohort model, with two days in class and two days of remote learning, or opt for exclusively online schooling.

Families are still asked to fill out the online registration form so that district officials can plan for in-person learning later in the school year, but the deadline for response has been extended to Aug. 5.

The district plans to use the Acellus platform for online courses. The district released answers to frequently asked questions at parent info nights,but much about the structure of the coming year was still unclear.

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