Kindergarten and first grade students will be welcomed back to school for in-person instruction starting Feb. 1 at Clatskanie Elementary School, Principal Kara Burghardt said.
Burghardt said grades two through four will return Feb. 8, followed by grades five and six on Feb. 16. All student cohorts in the building for limited in-person instruction will remain in the building on Feb. 1, Burghardt said, and the Clatskanie Family Academy online education program will start Feb. 1 as well.
Clatskanie School District and other county schools are be able to transition to hybrid learning and on-site elementary instruction under the revised metrics in the update to the Oregon Department of Education’s (ODE) “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance.
The updated guidance, released Jan. 19, aligns the new advisory metrics to the Harvard Global Health Institute recommendations. The previous metrics required distance learning for schools in counties with more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over a two-week period— preventing Columbia County schools from reopening.
The updated metrics now allow counties with between 200 and 350 new COVID-19 cases over two weeks per 100,000 people to transition to hybrid classes and offer on-site instruction to elementary students. In the two-week period from Jan. 3 to Jan. 16, the county reported 159 new cases of COVID-19, which puts it at a rate of 301.4 new cases per 100,00 people.
In December, Gov. Kate Brown announced that the metrics would transition from mandatory to advisory, but under House Bill 4402 any districts that reopened without meeting the metrics would lose liability protection from the state. The new metrics allow Columbia County schools to reopen and retain state protections.
At the Rainier School District, officials are still waiting for more information.
“We will need to see a two-week drop in cases, push for vaccines and get answers to some of the questions that remain unclear,” Superintendent Joseph Hattrick said.
Rainier School District previously announced possible start dates at its last school board meeting Jan. 11. The tentative plans outlined one option where preschool students and high school seniors return to in-person classes Feb. 1, with kindergarten through third grade returning two weeks later, followed by fourth through eighth grade and ninth through 11th in one- to two-week interval; and one option where preschool and seniors start Feb. 16, followed by other grades in one-week intervals.
The ODE guidance specifies that counties with between 200 to 350 new cases per 100,000 people in a two-week period can phase in on-site or hybrid classes for elementary learners. The guidance recommends moving to middle and high school phasing in following the success of elementary transitions and lower case rates.
“Unfortunately, this week saw another increase in cases in Columbia County (from 295.8 to 301.4), so at best if we saw the next two weeks decrease in cases and we have answers to our big questions we could open for hybrid on Feb. 16,” Hattrick said. “This remains a waiting game for us while we wait for vaccines and ensure rates do not continue to climb.”
Follow updates from Rainier School District at www.rainier.k12.or.us.