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Students will between choose hybrid or virtual models; cohorts number 10-15

PMG FILE PHOTO - St. Helens students got their first look at the new St. Helens Middle School a year ago and hope to be back in its halls again in the coming 2020-21 school year.As the 2020-21 school year approaches, the picture for just what school might look like is becoming clearer in the St. Helens School District.

On Monday, SHSD sent its latest guidance to district families in a two-page PDF that details the two learning models available to students (hybrid and virtual), specifics regarding logistics at the district's high schools, middle school and elementary schools, information about the district's safety procedures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and state requirements that the district must meet in order to offer in-person instruction.

The new school year will begin on Sept. 8 with parent-teacher conferences set for Sept. 8-15 for families to meet teachers and explain the instructional model and digital tools.

"Our goal is for families to have control and choice about the best 'school' option for their child," the release says. "Families may choose between a Hybrid Model and a distance learning option called the St. Helens Virtual Academy."

The district plans to start with distance learning for all students, until infection rates meet state standards for starting any in-person learning.

Hybrid Model

The Hybrid Model is designed to allow periodic school closures in case of high infection rates while providing "rigorous" instruction at home. The hybrid model is based on an A/B schedule with smaller cohorts meeting in person with SHHS teachers, then alternating to home instruction days. In-person sessions will resemble traditional instruction with smaller groups of students, while at-home instruction will consist of live and/or recorded lessons, projects and assignments. Fridays will be reserved for family outreach and student intervention support.

Virtual Model (St. Helens Virtual Academy)

The St. Helens Virtual Academy is powered by an interactive software supported by St. Helens teachers, with teachers working to ensure students master learning objectives while providing guidance, instruction and support to manage individual needs. St. Helens teachers will monitor student progress through lessons and daily assessments, and work with students and parents to advance each student's learning. SHVA is a fully digital program supported and managed by St. Helens' teachers.

High school

Students in high school will be grouped in cohorts of 15-17 with half coming to school every other day. Students will enroll in four 85-minute classes per semester with more options for elective courses, including dual-enrollment courses.

This model includes an Intervention/Enrichment period to provide access for college/career supports, Special Ed support and Credit-Earning Assurance Plans.

Middle school

Middle school students will be grouped in cohorts of 15-17 and remain in a single classroom for all core instruction, with three core teachers rotating into their classrooms. Students will also have enrichment teachers transition cohorts to enrichment classrooms for STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math), art, physical education and health.

Elementary school

Students in elementary school will be in cohorts of 10-15 per teacher to increase personal attention. The district is developing options for child care/academic support for off-site days. PE will be taught in the gym or outside while following physical distancing guidelines.

Teachers will also use digital tools to integrate instruction between home and school days and allow for instructional support

Safe schools, safe learners

All St. Helens schools will adhere to the Oregon Department of Education guidelines including: physical distancing (35 square feet per student); regular handwashing, regular sanitizing of frequently-touched surfaces; facial coverings for students and employees; restricting visitors; and maintaining cohort groups.

In addition, SHSD will utilize ionizing sanitation devices (typically used in medical facilities) to sanitize every school, every day and maximize use of outdoor facilities.

Requirements for in-person instruction

Based on guidance from the state Oregon issued July 28, and since 40% of SHSD teachers commute from the metro area, the district must hit the following benchmarks for in-person learning to be allowed.

Columbia County must, for three weeks in a row, record fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 population in the preceding seven days, and record a test positivity rate of less than 5% in the preceding week.

Updated: This story has been updated to add the dates — Sept. 8-15 — of parent-teacher conferences.


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