As COVID-19 case counts continue to rise throughout the State of Oregon, Governor Kate Brown recently announced the metrics school districts must meet in order to reopen for in-person instruction during the 2020-21 school year.
Following the Governor’s announcement, the Lincoln County School District made the decision to delay in-person classes until possibly November.
During a press conference July 28 with Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist and state health officer, as well as Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Director Colt Gill, Gov. Brown addressed the need for in-person instruction this fall. Gov. Brown said the State has been following guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states that ‘only with low rates of disease and adequate safeguards in place should schools return to in-person instruction.’
“Good schools improve health and we need to be cautious so schools don’t become places where the virus spreads,” Gov. Brown said.
In June, the State started creating guidance for school districts in Oregon, giving them three options: all in-person instruction, all distance learning instruction, or a hybrid model, which is a mix of both in person on online instruction. Gov. Brown said planning for the next school year will still be a local decision for school districts.
However, the state created new requirements/metrics that will help school districts make their decision based on health data, Gov. Brown says. These metrics were detailed by Dr. Sidelinger.
“Parents and guardians need to have confidence that they will not have to risk their children’s health for the sake of their learning, or the learning for the sake of their health by sending kids back to school,” Dr. Sidelinger noted. “There’s no simple statewide answer for Oregon. We need to get our students back to class, but how we do it depends on a number of important factors.”
Read more about the state's metrics here.
Lincoln County’s Plan
On July 31, Lincoln County School District (LCSD) Superintendent Dr. Karen Gray detailed the district’s plans for the fall school year.
On June 30, 2020, LCSD proposed the idea of starting school in the fall with a Hybrid Model, meaning that students would come to school in person two days a week and be at home with online learning two days per week as a step to getting back to school full time in-person. However, after case totals rose in Lincoln County in June and July, Dr. Gray said their plan seemed more like wishful thinking.
“As of July 30, we have come off of that watchlist. The numbers are only beginning to come down now but are not low enough long enough to make us believe that it is safe for kids and staff to come back to school in person… For now,” Dr. Gray said.
Instead of in-person education, LCSD will begin school Sept. 14 online via their Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) plan. Students will access learning online with their LCSD teachers daily, with materials for activities provided as needed.
“CDL this fall is more robust has more accountability and more in-depth educational requirements than the Distance Learning we provided in spring,” Dr. Gray said. “Student work will be graded, attendance will be taken and teachers will provide daily instruction from their classroom.”
Additionally, teachers will meet with students and families during the first two weeks of school to orient them to the CDL program and will continue to regularly connect with students and families. These meetings will be in person as much as possible using safety precautions (social distancing, face coverings, sanitizing, cleaning, sneeze-guards, etc.).
Between weeks three and eight, LCSD will be continuously evaluating the safety of the community and the safety of the schools to bring hybrid teaching and learning onto the campuses a few grades at a time as soon as possible. LCSD will begin with the youngest kids first.
LCSD will also off another program in addition to CDL for students called ‘K-12 Online Edmentum.’ The program serves as LCSD’s own online charter school, using an all online curriculum called Edmentum. The framework is K-12 and follows all Oregon Standards for Education. The administrator for the program is Zach Lillebo, the Vice Principal of Taft Elementary School in Lincoln City.
“He is terrific and is getting up to speed on how our new program will work,” Dr. Gray said. “He will be in charge of this K-12 program full time. This program is self-paced and does not have a connection with an LCSD teacher. There is an expectation of daily participation and progression through the curriculum. Students in K-6 will only have access to the core subjects of Reading, English Language Arts and Math.”
Students will be able to move between the two programs but can only make the switch at nine-week grading periods.
Dr. Gray said the district is currently working to get all students a device and WIFI hotspots to conduct online work. Also, meals will continue to be delivered daily and may be available for pickup at designated sites soon. As for sports, they are currently prohibited at this time. More information will be forthcoming.
“This is not the news we wanted to share with you,” Dr. Gray said. “We wanted to bring kids back on campus, but we can’t do it safely enough. Even with our Blueprint for Reopening document (a draft now) with the many precautions and safeguards it details, we as a county do not have the metrics that allow us to open.
“I would also instead take things slowly, begin to see how the numbers turn out and still provide our students with high-quality education as best we can through the online models we are able to provide this fall. It is July 31, and registration starts next week. We had to make a decision, and we have. Time is out and the decision is made and will not change.”