Hood River County School District administration has been planning for what it terms safe school reopening in the fall, and the work of the administration, principals and staff, and community advisory group continues.

A series of virtual presentations that will include opportunities for the community to help guide the planning continue through July 29 (Spanish), and 30 (English.) For details, go to the district’s web page www.hoodriver.k12.or.us and social media platforms.

Site-specific plans for reopening are in process, and the advisory group will meet next week to help educators refine those plans.

Superintendent Rich Polkinghorn said, “HRCSD’s goal is to safely bring all students and staff back to campus full time. However, physical distancing requirements, and classroom sizes, the square footage in each room, will make it difficult to accomplish that goal. Therefore, we will offer parents the opportunity to choose between one of two school models for the fall.” Polkinghorn noted more details will be announced in the upcoming weeks about how and when families can make their choice.

Meanwhile, all HRCSD playgrounds and practice fields are closed to the public until further notice.

The district has until its (currently-scheduled) Aug. 12 school board meeting to finalize a plan for reopening, for submission to the Oregon Department of Education.

In the board’s July 22 meeting, Polkinghorn cautioned that while the district is planning for on-site learning, conditions and state regulations may dictate a move to full distance-learning system, one that would have improved student-teacher engagement and rigor. Polkinghorn said the OSAA-ordered delay of the start of fall sports practices until September, announced last week, could lead to cancellation of football and most other sports and activities.

According to a letter to parents from Polkinghorn, there are a few options for schooling in the fall:

One option is the On-Site Learning Model, which means the schools would be providing in-person instruction “to the greatest extent possible.

"We are prepared and ready to move between full on-site, hybrid, or short-term distance learning as needed," said Polkinghorn. "Virus transmission rates in our communities will be closely monitored and I will coordinate with the Hood River County Health Department when making decisions related to this learning model."

Full on-site learning would be most similar to how one normally thinks of school, with all the safety measures, as developed in our safety planning, in place.

Hybrid learning would mean limited in-classroom, face-to-face instruction time for students. The amount of time a student spends at school may vary depending on a variety of factors including the district’s ability to meet social distancing requirements and individual student needs.

Short-term distance learning means schools would temporarily close to mitigate an outbreak or surge in cases in a school or community.

Currently, HRCSD is planning to start with a Hybrid Learning Model in the fall. This may change based upon an increase or a decrease of COVID-19 in the community, said Polkinghorn.

Another option is the Online Instruction Model, which means students attend school 100 percent online and receive their instruction through a remote learning program. More details about this option will be available in the coming weeks, said Polkinghorn.

"As directed by the guidance provided by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners planning is centered around re-entering school buildings while meeting the requirements necessary to keep our students, staff, and community safe," said Polkinghorn.

ODE’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners planning requires the school district to provide plans in three broad areas: Public Health Protocols, Facilities and School Operations, and Response to Outbreak.

Each category covers different aspects of safety, such as arrival and dismissal, transportation and physical distancing.

The district notes the following:

1. Staff and students will be required to wear face masks while at school.

2. Classroom spaces will be arranged to meet 6 feet spacing for students

3. Cleaning of hands, as well as surfaces and high touch areas, are prioritized in the plans

"School and district teams are working in collaboration with the Hood River County Health Department developing and refining safety plans for reopening," said Polkinghorn.

HRCSD will submit each plan to the Oregon Department of Education with the following considerations:

The health and safety of students, staff, and community;

The ability to switch from full on-site learning to hybrid to short-term distance learning, as needed;

Aligning schedules to the extent possible for families that have more than one school-aged child;

Offering educational choices for families.

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