In person classes may be back in session for Rainier schools as soon as Feb. 1, said Joeseph Hattrick, interim superintendent of the Rainier School District.
Hattrick outlined the district's plan for bringing students back into the buildings at the Jan. 11 school board meeting. He stressed that the timeline he presented is subject to change.
Preschool students and high school seniors would be prioritized to return first.
"There's a strong push to get students back in person, as well as an even stronger push advocating to prioritize our seniors as well," Hattrick said.
On Monday, a group of district students rallied outside of the district office campus wearing masks and holding signs urging administrators to resume in-person classes. Hattrick said he was proud of the students for organizing the demonstration and advocating for themselves.
Hattrick outlined two possible timelines for the return to the classroom and start of hybrid learning (a combination of comprehensive distance learning and in-person instruction).
The first option would have preschool students and high school seniors returning to the classroom on Feb. 1; kindergarten through third grade on Feb. 16; fourth through eighth grade on March 1; and ninth through 11th grade on March 15.
The second option would push the preschool and senior start date to Feb. 16; followed by kindergarten through third grade on Feb. 22; fourth through eighth grade on March 1; and ninth through 11th on March 8.
Hattrick said the timeline will be determined based on the updated metrics from the Oregon Education Department, which will be released Jan. 19, and the trend in cases in the area. If cases surge, the timeline will have to be pushed back, he said.
Families will have the choice between enrolling students in hybrid classes, or continuing with distance learning. Hybrid classes will break students into cohorts that will occupy the buildings on different days, and each grade group will have a different start and end time.
Facial coverings will be required for all students and staff in the school buildings, and isolation rooms will be provided for sick or symptomatic students.
"If students select the hybrid option but are refusing to wear masks, they are no longer eligible to participate in the hybrid instruction," Hattrick said. "Hybrid is for those students who are willing to follow all social distancing and safety guidelines."
The day that hybrid classes begin, activities and sports will return as well, Hattrick said.
Hattrick said the district will send a survey to parents to explain the options to them today and cohorts will be established after parents make their choice.
He will be awaiting the metric update from the state expected on Jan. 19. The updated metrics, though advisory and no longer mandatory, will inform the district's timeline for returning to class, Hattrick said. Schools can reopen without meeting the metrics outlined by the state, but will lose liability protections from the state if they choose to do so, under House Bill 4402.
Hattrick said he will continue to watch case rates in the area and advocate for vaccinations for staff members. In a survey of 73 district staff members, 72.6% indicated that they would want a vaccine when it becomes available to them, Hattrick said, and that he has contacted local elected officials to advocate for vaccine prioritization for school staff.
Clatskanie School District has also been discussing the back to school plan and sent a reopening survey out to district families on Jan. 10. A potential start date is set for Feb. 1.