The Beaverton School District provided an update on its plans for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year Wednesday, Jan. 27, with mixed news for families eager for a return to in-person instruction.
The school district had announced earlier this month that bringing back middle and high school students under COVID-19 health and safety protocols this school year would likely be "impossible." On Wednesday, district officials struck a less declarative tone, describing the possibility of in-person instruction for those students as a "maybe."
"We continue to evaluate the feasibility of bringing secondary students back for Hybrid Instruction and will communicate a start date when we're able," the Beaverton School District said in a statement.
Hybrid learning is what many school districts, including Beaverton, are calling a model that blends the distance learning that students have been doing since last March with a few days per week of in-person instruction.
Beaverton is currently considering a plan that would bring back pre-kindergarten and elementary school students for four days per week, with Wednesday remaining as a distance learning day. Those in-person learning days would, in effect, be half-days for students, with half coming in for a morning session and the other half attending in the afternoon. Students would be assigned to either the morning cohort or the afternoon cohort.
The soonest hybrid learning could start is April 5, district officials say. Pre-K through the second grade could resume that week, with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders being welcomed back over subsequent weeks.
"Right now, we're waiting for the opportunity to vaccinate our elementary school staff," the Beaverton School District's statement noted. Oregon has begun the process of vaccinating educators against COVID-19, although it will take weeks to complete it.
Limited in-person instruction will likely begin much sooner.
"As the name indicates, this instruction model is limited to a very small number of our students who've been most impacted during COVID-19, including some students with disabilities, some English language learners and those students who don't have reliable internet connectivity," the school district explained. "Staff members have identified eligible students and will be reaching out to those families."
This limited in-person learning is tentatively set to begin Feb. 22.
Some area school districts have already started limited in-person instruction, also with small and narrowly defined cohorts of students.
For families that are unwilling or unable to return to in-person learning this year, Beaverton schools will continue to provide comprehensive distance learning as an option even if some classrooms reopen before the end of the school year.
However, Beaverton school families will need to choose whether to stick with distance learning only or opt into the hybrid instruction model. Families of elementary students will need to make their decision by Feb. 15.
Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at the Beaverton School District's K-8 schools — Aloha-Huber, Raleigh Hills and Springville — will not return on the same schedule as younger students at those schools, the district added.
For elementary students to be able to return to in-person instruction, Washington and Multnomah counties must record 350 or fewer positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period. Right now, the counties are meeting that criteria, although teachers unions in Beaverton, Portland and other K-12 school districts continue to voice concern about returning to classrooms before educators can get immunized.
The threshold for middle and high school in-person learning is much more stringent, at 200 or fewer cases per 100,000.
Right now, Washington County is at 289.4 cases per 100,000, with a 5.4% test positivity rate, according to public data being used by the Beaverton School District.
Multnomah County stands at 243.3 cases per 100,000 with a 4.4% positive rate, according to the same data.
Lake Oswego aims for late February opening
Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz announced the new start date for the transition to in-person hybrid learning late Friday afternoon, Jan. 29.
Kindergartners and first graders, the first to return to the classroom, will go back Tuesday, Feb. 23. Second and third graders will start the following week on March 1, with grades four and five returning March 5. Finally, the district has tentative plans to bring grades 6-12 back for the start of fourth quarter April 2.
This change appears to be the last. At the Jan. 25 meeting, the school board directed the district to settle on a date on which they could follow through to avoid further figurative whiplash for parents and educators.
"Considering inputs from our school personnel, advice from our public health authorities, knowledge of our vaccination schedules, and directives from our school board, we have arrived at a start date of Tuesday, Feb. 23. This date will be kept firm so that all in our learning community may prepare and move forward together," de la Cruz said in an email to families Jan. 29. "Principals will be providing information about reopening details and preparing students for in-person school. This will include information about class assignments based on teacher and student change requests, and sharing a video with families on 'a day in the life' to communicate what our elementary students may expect when returning to our buildings."
She added that there will be no school supply lists, as the district will provide everything that is needed for students.