Lebanon Community Schools will open the school year with in-person instruction options for grades K-3 and distance learning only for grades 4-12.
A statement from Superintendent Bo Yates on Wednesday incorrectly noted that Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Department of Education "directed all school districts to open the year using distance learning as source of instruction for grades 4-12."
On Tuesday, Brown and the state's epidemiologist, Dean Sidelinger, introduced metrics for safe reopening. To open in-person classes to all students, the state's positive test rate for COVID-19 must be at or below 5% for the previous seven days for three consecutive weeks. On Wednesday, the state's rate was 5.1%.
In addition, counties have to have 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents for the same timespan. Neither Linn nor Benton County has met both of these requirements for three consecutive weeks recently, but both have independently met them for shorter periods of time.
On Wednesday, Yates said his original statement should have indicated that the district's plan was based on current metrics for the county laid out by the state. Additionally, he noted that the district, like others across the mid-valley, is still contending with what the new rules mean.
Yates' announcement noted that K-3 students would have the option to receive in-person classes.
"We will be allowed to provide this model due to the downward trend of our county infection rate, as well as the specific needs of our young students," Yates said. "To keep social distancing guidelines, we will need to restructure our classes for these students. Dividing the classes into two separate cohorts will allow us to meet the social distancing guidelines directed by Governor Brown and the Oregon Department of Education."
According to the new state guidelines, K-3 students may only receive in-person instruction if the virus is not actively circulating in the community and the county has 30 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents for the previous seven days for three consecutive weeks.
Yates noted on Wednesday that the district didn't yet know what in-person classes for those students would look like or if they would be half-days. Ideally he said, students would be in classes four days a week. Currently, the plan is to have those students in classes, permitted by current-day metrics.
But, if the county were to break that 30 new cases per 100,000 residents threshold, K-3 students would be pulled from in-person classes as well. That decision would be communicated to parents via the district's website and email list.
For students in grades 4-12, Lebanon Community Schools will be utilizing the Canvas Learning Management System that allows students to connect to teachers. K-3 kids would also utilize the system if unable to attend school in-person.
"Canvas has many benefits including clean, user-friendly, content-focused design, an excellent platform for cultivating interconnected, digital teaching and learning opportunities, and frequent feature and tool updates," Yates said. "Canvas also has an excellent parent program that you can access from your phone. Our ability to provide online content will be vastly improved from spring."
Chromebooks will continue to be offered for grades 3-12.
"We realize that this is not the preferred model that the majority of our parents and community support," Yates wrote, "but it is the safest model for students and staff to start the year. We will adjust onsite instruction in accordance with the Oregon Department of Education guidelines. Our priority is to provide students access to onsite instruction as soon as we can safely do so."
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