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Whitson Elementary Principal Todd McCauley welcomes Amanda Quilivan and her son, Jace, a third-grader to the school during registration in late August. McCauley and other educators are shifting to in-school instruction, for grades K-6. 

The White Salmon Valley School District is planning to bring K-6 students back to the classroom on a hybrid model of instruction.

The hybrid model will bring students from Whitson Elementary School, as well as fifth and sixth graders from Wallace and Priscilla Stevenson Intermediate schools, back to in-person instruction in a AA-BB format. This means students will receive two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote learning planning, Superintendent Jerry Lewis told Columbia Gorge News in an email exchange.

“We can only bring back a certain number of students at any one time because of the social distancing requirements,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the school district received approval from the Klickitat County Public Health Department to bring back students in a hybrid model, and the district is aiming to reopen K-6 instruction by the end of October.

District officials are gauging families’ attitudes towards making the shift; a survey sent out by the district asks parents whether they will send each child of theirs who attends either Whitson or WPSIS back once in-person instruction resumes, and if they plan to drop their student off or have them ride the bus.

The district also sent out another survey directed towards staff, looking for feedback on returning to in-person instruction. Lewis told Columbia Gorge News that one specific challenge for administrators is finding a balanced schedule for teachers, who will find themselves responsible for both in-person instruction and planning as well as remote learning.

School districts are required to follow state and local health department guidance to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19. Students will be required to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and have daily health screenings before entering school buildings.

Lewis said K-6 will be the only grades returning to in-person instruction at this time. Since Henkle Middle School and Columbia High School operate on a trimester schedule, those students will first finish their classes from the first trimester, which ends Friday, Nov. 20.

“The district is starting with the K-6 hybrid model first to allow the district to better manage the return to school process,” Lewis said. “Student and staff safety is our first priority and we are working hard to have a successful in-person reopening.”

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