With only a few weeks before classes are set to begin for the new school year, district administrators in Columbia County and across the state are carefully assembling policies and procedures under the Oregon Education Department’s (ODE) Ready Schools, Safe Learners Blueprint.
The blueprint is a project designed to provide a framework for schools for the 2020-21 school year that ensures the health and safety of all students and staff and the families they return to each day in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
See guidelines attached.
In the following conversation Clatskanie School District Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz outlines what’s ahead for the new school year.
The Chief: Please give us a snapshot of what the plan involves and what students and parents should expect?
Cathy Hurowitz: The plan, approved by the school board, is to open schools next year for all students who wish to return to school. Elementary students will attend Monday -Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday will be reserved for planning and working with students that choose our on-line option. Middle/High School students will attend from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.
The split schedule will allow for social distancing on our school buses and time to sanitize the buses between runs. We will continue with our academy that we began last year. Students whose families are choosing to not send their children to school will have an online option that will allow students to keep up with their grade-level peers. The District has invested in additional technology as well as a comprehensive K-12 online curriculum. The technology and curriculum will allow our teachers to continue rigorous instruction if schools must move to distance learning or if cohorts of students are quarantined.
The Chief: How will the District handle health and safety of students riding buses to and from the schools?
Hurowitz: We will have two different start times for elementary and secondary students. This allows us to implement the best practice recommendations for distancing on school buses as well as protect our drivers. Drivers will be given face shields for protection.
The Chief: What about school sports and other student activities, such as assemblies?
Hurowitz: We have not received firm guidance on school sports. We are expecting guidance within the next couple of weeks.
The Chief: How is the District communicating the new school year plan to students and parents?
Hurowitz: The plan will be posted on our website. I will be sending a letter home to all families with our plan and a link to the details. We will also use social media to get our information out.
The Chief: When is the opening date of the new school year and what is the projected student attendance?
Hurowitz: We will begin educating our students on Sept. 8. As of now we have our reopening plan but if things change we will move to distance learning. I don’t see much change in our student attendance across the district. We will accommodate our families needs for either in class or online or a combination of the two.
Our top priority is the health and safety of students and staff. The District is purchasing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for all staff, hand washing stations, additional building sanitizers, and lucite barriers to keep students and staff safe. We will be implementing the 6’ social distancing requirements for all staff and students following best practices. We are working with the Columbia County Health Authority to develop protocols for health and safety if there is an outbreak in our schools.
Our initial survey to our families indicated that they want their students to return to school in the fall. The plan that we currently have is in response to community needs. Please keep in mind that this is a very fluid environment and the plans we have now may change to meet the needs of our community.
Rainier School District plans
“Our top priority is the safe opening of the schools,” Rainier interim school Superintendent Dr. Joseph Hattrick told The Chief. “Just ensuring that the district continues to be a healthy, positive leaning environment for students in whatever capacity that is.”
Hattrick said his leaderships team is closely following the ODE blueprint. He said the Rainier schools plan is still a work in progress and will involve much participation by families and the community.
“Right now we are looking at every option, including Distance Learning and limited in-classroom teaching,” Hattrick said. “The challenge that I want to assess is how Rainier addressed that this spring and see if there is any way to improve it. I want to be sure that we have multiple options available for parents so that no matter people’s situation, we can meet their needs.”
Hattrick said he hopes to have a draft of the new school year plan before the ODE deadline of Aug. 15.
Hattrick was appointed the interim superintendent in June. He replaces Michael Carter who left for a similar position at the Lake County School District 7 in southeast Oregon.
Follow the new school year plans at thechiefnews.com with in-depth reports in the Friday print editions of The Chief.