The Greater Albany Public Schools board will discuss the status of reopening schools across the district during its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.
Superintendent Melissa Goff said in a statement on Tuesday that the district may open in a hybrid model allowing for both in-person and distance learning by Feb. 15, but several additional conversations need to occur with teachers and other staff members.
“We have daily schedules established for K-12 for those students who return in person, and students will continue to have the option to remain in distance learning,” Goff added.
Also on Monday, limited in-person instruction will resume for more than 300 students who are participating in specialized learning groups at various sites. Many of those students are on individualized education plans, and families have been contacted if their students are in these groups.
On Dec. 23, Gov. Kate Brown made a surprise announcement and said districts, not the state, can decide whether students return to classrooms beginning in February. State rules have barred schools from reopening to all students in counties with high caseloads, but those metrics will become advisory rather than mandatory.
GAPS administrators are working with the school board and unions to work on a plan to get students back to school, Goff said. That will partly depend on new safe school guidelines that the state will release in mid-January, and cover topics such as how many children can be in classrooms and the wearing of masks.
Goff said the districts will continue to monitor the state’s metrics. Linn County has had more than three times the number of COVID-19 cases recommended for reopening schools, while Benton County has had just under double the recommended number of cases.
“This data is part of our considerations as we move forward with the new direction regarding reopening,” Goff said.
The district also has questions regarding the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for staff members. “Regardless of whether we open before or after vaccine availability, all safety precautions will continue as planned and previously shared for students and stuff. We need to learn more from ODE (the Oregon Department of Education and our local public health authorities on the potential risks and additional safety measures needed if we are to reopen with case numbers so high,” Goff said, in the statement.
Teachers and other school staff currently are placed by the state in a second tier for vaccine distribution, and are part of a group that is ranked behind essential workers such as hospital staff and residents of assisted living facilities.
Public comments to the board for Monday’s meeting may be submitted until noon on Monday. Those who wish to comment should go to https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZweLnroC_XXYPbzXQlk0mCFpzTfcm4ae6n8u0PJQT5U/edit.
The GAPS board meeting will be live-streamed on https://www.youtube.com/c/GreaterAlbanyPublicSchools.
Kyle Odegard can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter via @KyleOdegard.