Oregon schools: Over 100 non-teaching positions reinstated

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Over 100 non-teaching staff in the Oregon City Schools (OCS) district were reinstated as students returned to school earlier this month.
        “These were individual positions that were part of a reduction in force about five weeks ago,” said Superintendent Hal Gregory. “Because of our plan to start kids back to school, we needed to bring everyone back.”
        The vast majority of the district staff have been working since the hybrid model started in October.
        Among the positions that were reinstated include bus drivers, custodians, classroom paraprofessionals, cafeteria cooks, cafeteria monitors, recess monitors, bus monitors, and librarians. We had already called some back because we have special needs programs in the buildings. But all together, there were 102 individuals in the reduction force – all those individuals are back.”
        Some will not return due to retirements, said Gregory.
        “We have had a few retirements, so some individuals have made choices to retire. But other than that, everyone is being recalled,” he said. “We can’t run the district without them. Our intent was always to bring them back around the corner. We always felt that it was when we would be bringing kids back in. We did accelerate that by two weeks, bringing in our students in grades K-6 by two weeks earlier than the end of the quarter.”
        Students in grades K through sixth grade started hybrid learning – attending in-person classes two days per week and virtual or remote learning for three days per week - on Oct. 5.  Last Monday, they started in-person classes five days per week. Students in grades 7 through 12 started hybrid learning on Oct. 19 and will be going to in-person classes full-time, five days per week, starting on Nov. 2.
        Students can opt for at home learning through the OCS Digital Academy.
        “Parents still have that option to take advantage of,” said Gregory.
        “We have about 20 individuals who are exploring staying remote under the digital academy,” he said. “That is in addition to the 70 K-8 who are learning remotely.”
        When the district was planning the restart of school in July and bring students to in-person classes in the school buildings, some parents made a choice to sign up for the online digital academy, he said.
        Then the district, upon the recommendation of the Toledo Lucas County Health Department, decided that students would learn remotely. The board canceled the hybrid model the board had voted for just before the health department’s recommendation.
        At a board meeting on Monday, Gregory gave an update on students returning to classrooms.
        “It seems to be going well,” he said.
Staying in school
        Gregory emphasized the importance of keeping students in school.
        “We are going to do everything in our power to avoid outbreaks of COVID in our schools,” he said. If that happens, I just want to reassure people that we’re going to deal with it, we’re going to isolate it, and we’re going to get through it. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to shut down the entire school or shut down the entire district. It may mean we would have to look at a hiatus for a couple of weeks if it’s pretty significant in a school.”
        The Toledo Lucas County Health Department has been very helpful communicating with district officials, he said.
        “The health department has been very willing to listen to schools’ needs. It’s already looking at adjusting how we quarantine students. Up until today, if a kid was sick, we had to quarantine, and send home all the individuals who were around that student. We no longer have to do that, unless the student tested positive. That’s a significant change. And that’s to keep kids in school. Every week we’re having conversations with the health department about keeping kids in school. That’s our mission and goal. We have some barriers in front of us, and we need to work through those. I’m very excited about the possibility of using common sense and dealing with things in a way that keeps kids in school.”


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