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Teachers, staff afforded four extra days to prepare distance learning lessons

PMG FILE PHOTO - OTSD schools set to open Sept. 14. Students will have four extra days of summer break this year as the Oregon Trail School District has adjusted the 2020-2021 calendar to start Monday, Sept. 14.

This change was proposed to the district board of directors on July 30, and is intended to give teachers and staff an additional four days to prepare for an all-online fall term.

Gov. Kate Brown, along with officials from the Oregon Health Authority, announced revised school reopening guidelines using health metrics for COVID-19 on July 28.

After initially planning for a hybrid model of in-person instruction and remote learning, the state released updated rules last Tuesday, indicating counties will need to show a low number of COVID-19 case numbers before students can step foot in a classroom. According to the new rules, a school district may only reopen to in-person instruction if the county has 10 or fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and a 5% or less increase in positive tests per week. A county must meet those standards for three consecutive weeks to qualify for school reopening. Additionally, the state as a whole must have a 5% or less positive test rate, according to Brown's new mandate.

Separate, less restrictive rules apply for kindergarten through third grades, which rely more heavily on in-person learning during their formative years to meet critical developmental benchmarks, state officials said. For those younger students, currently only one county in Oregon — Wheeler County — would qualify to reopen its school district.

As of last week's metrics, the state overall had a case rate of 55.7 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 5.8%. Clackamas County, as of July 26, had 31.6 cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 4.3%.

"We will implement a Comprehensive Distance Learning program for approximately nine weeks, September 14 through November 13, and continue to assess our options based on updated state and county health metrics," OTSD Superintendent Aaron Bayer said in a statement to parents on July 31. "Until a vaccine is approved, there will continue to be a lot of uncertainty. Committing to a Comprehensive Distance Learning program provides stability within the first quarter and prevents the inevitable start and stop between transitions that will occur with outbreaks. We hope that we will be able to transition to a hybrid model before Thanksgiving, providing instruction with A/B student cohorts attending school on alternating days."

Student enrollment for Oregon Trail students opens Monday, Aug. 10, and parents will receive a link and information on how to register students from the district.

"With both virtual and online programs, there will be an expectation of daily student attendance," Bayer added. "We will use a traditional grading system at all grade levels, and all students will receive a report card at the end of each semester."

The district plans to send more detailed information this week about virtual and online programs, "so that you may consider both options and decide which would be best for your child."

Portland Tribune reporter Courtney Vaughn contributed to this article.

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