While some school districts in Oregon are slowly transitioning back to in-person classroom instruction, planning for the return of students to the classrooms is still underway at the Clatskanie School District.
Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said the end of the semester in January is a possible time to transition back to in-person learning if Columbia County’s COVID-19 case metrics support it.
“It has always been our plan to return to in-person instruction as soon as allowed,” Hurowitz told The Chief. “We are in the prepping stages for bringing back students beginning with K-3 as soon as the metrics allow.”
Currently, the county is unable to meet the metrics required to reopen schools, but during the Oct. 12 Clatskanie School Board meeting, board members said future meetings should start to plan the return. The plan is taking into consideration staff and student safety, instructional needs, community needs and metrics identified by public health leaders locally and statewide, Hurowitz said.
“From a community standpoint, many of our families are hoping to return to brick and mortar,” she said. “Distance learning has been a burden on many of our families.”
Not all students have reliable access to internet, Hurowitz said, and some are allowed in the building to access the internet. She said the district is working with Verizon to provide internet hotspots for those who need it.
“I am proud of all the hard work and energy our staff has put into CDL,” she said. “Of course, we have glitches, but we are able to address those and move forward.”
Hurowitz said she has concerns for the district’s underserved populations, the support systems children have at home, the social-emotional impact of the pandemic and how distance learning might create an achievement gap when classes can resume in person, but she also said she can find the positives.
“In the long run I think that we will look back at this time and realize how much we have learned,” she said. “Our teachers are developing very strong relationships with families, learning how to use technology in a variety of ways, as well as meeting individual student needs.”
Student attendance through the distance learning system at Clatskanie Elementary School is around 90% right now, according to Interim Principal Kara Burghardt.
During the Oct. 12 regular school board meeting, Hurowitz also presented the new ‘All Students Belong’ rule which prohibits the swastika, Confederate flag and the noose at all school events, including in-person, hybrid and distance learning instruction. Any student incidents violating the rule will be investigated.