School Districts Challenged

Clatskanie Elementary School and others in the Clatskanie School District closed on Tuesday, Sept. 15 due to the poor air quality. The schools reopened Wednesday, Sept. 16, but officials continued to monitor the air quality to ensure safety. The schools are operating on a remote learning system with no in-person classes.

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Already struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, local school districts have been challenged over the past two weeks with air quality issues triggered by regional wildfires.

The Clatskanie Schools were closed Tuesday, Sept. 15, due to the deteriorating air quality. The district resumed operations on Wednesday, but Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said officials were continuing to monitor the air quality to ensure safety for staff and teachers. Students are still under the Distance Learning procedures, taking classes remotely.

The Rainier School District (RSD) delayed its Sept. 14 opening date last week due to internal changes related to the pandemic and on the onset of the poor air quality. The RSD will remain closed until Monday, Sept. 21, according to Superintendent Dr. Joesph Hattrick.

“We delayed the start of school to September 21 to ensure every staff member would be fully prepared to provide a quality education to our students,” Hattrick told The Chief.

In a letter sent to district parents, Hattrick wrote, “The beginning of the school year is always a challenging time but with the addition of a pandemic, wildfires, and a new superintendent, the challenges are magnified. Drawing from my past experience in virtual education, I will continue to work with our staff to ensure every child has:

  • Access to their classroom.
  • A challenging and engaging curriculum.
  • Paper-based instruction for those without technology or access.

In light of my requirements, late arrival to Rainier School District, and the ability to ensure everyone’s success, we are delaying the start of school.”

Hattrick told the parents that because RSD has more instructional time than required by the state, we will not be required to extend the school year. Additionally, student credit-earning ability will not be impacted.

Hattrick urged parents to  monitor the RSD Facebook pages and website for updates.

"I am planning to announce updated athletic plans and hybrid plans, including preK-3 in-person instruction," he said. "As metrics continue to decrease in Columbia County, I am hopeful that we can return to an in-person learning model soon."

Hurowitz also sent a letter to her district parents to alert them that the original fall school opening plans were being altered to follow state health guidelines.

“Because we value our community’s safety we are going to begin our school year via Comprehensive Distance Learning beginning September 8,” Hurowitz wrote. “Per the guidance from the Governor and the OHA, we will monitor our metrics every three weeks in the hopes of bringing our students back to the buildings on or before November 16. The health and safety of our students and staff is our priority and we will carefully adhere to State guidance every step of the way.”

Hurowitz said Chromebooks are being provided for every student in the district as well as support for families who need internet service to their home and the district is working on providing hot spots if internet access is unavailable due to location. The district is also continuing a summer program providing meals for students.

The Clatskanie School District also provided a community survey for families to write down their students’ specific needs, which Hurowitz said will give teachers and staff a better understanding to best serve each family.

“I’m asking for your patience and a bit of grace as we move forward together,” Hurowitz wrote. “None of us asked for this and we are all in uncharted territory. This pandemic is an ongoing and fluid situation and things seem to change weekly/daily/hourly.”

Follow this developing story at thechiefnews.com and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.

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