Oregon releases final plan to restart school

Kelly J. Kaczala

       Hal Gregory, superintendent of the Oregon City Schools (OCS) District, announced on Monday the next phase of a plan to return to in-school learning.
        At a Sept. 15 school board meeting, there was a two hour debate on how the district should restart school. The board was divided throughout the meeting over whether students should return to school instead of learning remotely at home.  The meeting concluded with Gregory saying he would have a final plan on Sept. 21.
        “There has been a lot of discussion and debate related to the next steps, which led to the plan,” said Gregory in announcing the next phase of the plan. “Working with our board of education, and listening to each member’s personal thoughts and ideas, we have tried to meet the various needs of all our stakeholders to have a seamless transition from remote learning. The goal is to balance the needs of our families, educational needs of our students, working conditions of our staff, and the overall safety of everyone.”
        Gregory said the plan is subject to change at any time if conditions change.
        “Our goal with this plan is to allow students in grades K-6 to return in a timely manner prior to the end of the first quarter, but allow two weeks under the hybrid model to review procedures with students, evaluate the effectiveness of our procedures, and acclimate everyone back to school before all students return.”
        Students in grades 7-12 will remain remote until Oct. 19.
        “We want a consistent educational model for the entire first quarter that allows for consistent grading and accounting. This is why the older students will start back at a later date. For many of these students, grades are directly connected to credits towards graduation, so staying consistent throughout the quarter is a priority,” he said.
        The following schedule will be implemented beginning Monday, Oct. 5. The adopted 20/21 school calendar, he said, will continue to be followed moving forward:
        • Monday, Oct. 5: All students in grades K-6 will return under a hybrid option for two weeks. Student numbers will be reduced by half. They will attend two days at school and three days remote under the direction of teachers. Students will follow predetermined schedules, with some attending on Mondays and Thursdays, and others attending on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesday will remain a remote learning day. The hybrid schedule will be followed for two weeks;
        •Monday, Oct. 19: All students K-6 return full time, five days per week. All students in grades 7-12 will return under the hybrid option for two weeks. Student numbers will be reduced by half. They will attend two days at school and three days remote under the direction of OCS teachers. The hybrid schedule will be followed for two weeks;
        •November 2: All students 7-12 return full time, five days per week.
        “As a school leader, I have the opportunity to listen and participate in weekly calls with our local health department,” said Gregory. “I received information on a daily basis outlining the most recent national, state and local recommendations related to COVID-19. I have the opportunity to talk with our educational staff, school administrators, and other area school leaders. I hear from members of the community sharing detailed information about their experiences at home, good and bad. Even with all this information I have access to, there continues to be significant uncertainty as to what will happen when we implement this plan and the spread of the virus within the Oregon City Schools District. This uncertainty may lead to disruptions in student learning moving forward.”
Best decision
        Gregory in August required students in the district to learn online after it was strongly recommended by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department as a result of an increase in COVID-19 cases in the county. The district had previously planned to go with a hybrid model that consisted of students going back to school on certain days of the week, and learning remotely on other days. The remote learning was to remain in effect until the matter was re-evaluated by the health department on Oct. 1
        “The Toledo Lucas County Health Department is our partner and holds direct oversight when it comes to managing COVID-19 cases, which will eventually affect our students and staff,” said Gregory. “This plan may result in a student to be quarantined or isolated at home. One infected student may cause a chain reaction of many quarantined students and possibly staff. There continues to be a risk with bringing students back into school, but we believe it is the right educational decision at this time and we will mitigate as much risk of transmission as possible in our schools.”
        The district will minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission by adhering to a mandatory mask order, said Gregory.
        “All students and staff will wear masks at all times unless there is a documented medical reason not to wear a mask. All students who ride the bus will be two per seat wearing masks and using hand sanitizer. All students and staff will have their temperature taken upon arrival to school every day. Students and staff will be expected to use our 24 hour hand sanitizer upon arrival at school. Classrooms, restrooms, cafeterias, and common areas will be disinfected and cleaned daily with increased cleaning and disinfecting schedules along with ongoing evaluation of what is working and what is not. Appropriate signage will be placed throughout the schools to remind all students and staff about proper health and safety procedures. Social (physical) distancing will be a challenge in all our schools, especially when all students are attending,” he said.
Six feet
        The goal of social distancing will always be six feet, he said.
        “The reality is our students will be physically spaced out to the maximum distance allowable given the classroom size or common area usable space. I feel confident our students will be at least three feet apart from each other in the classrooms during both the hybrid plan and when all students attend. For students in grades 7-12, the most vulnerable times of the day will be during lunch and in the hallways. We will implement structured traffic patterns, defined seating, and multiple lunch locations to minimize the risk during these times,” he said.
        “We know this plan will not meet the needs of all families. Those who want to remain remote will have the option to enroll in our digital academy, which is an online, independent, self-paced, and self-guided curriculum. With that said, we will be adding more support to digital academy students than originally planned,” he said. For more information on the digital academy, email ocsdigitalacademy@oregoncs.org.


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