In a July 30 letter to parents and guardians with kids in North Wasco County Schools District 21, Interim Superintendent Theresa Peters said the district will begin the 2020-21 school year online in a “comprehensive distance learning” format.

Peters explained that the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority’s release the health metrics required for local districts to provide in-school instruction during the current pandemic clarified district plans.

“In order for families and staff to plan, we will use the Comprehensive Distance Learning format until Oct. 16” rather than on-site classroom teaching, Peters wrote. “We will monitor the health metrics at the state and county levels to determine whether we continue with Comprehensive Distance Learning or if we are able to move to a hybrid model after Oct. 16."

A hybrid model would be a combination of in-school and distance learning for students. “We are also exploring a full distance learning format as an option for some students,” said Peters. “Comprehensive Distance Learning” will not be the same as distance learning from this past spring, which was a response to the pandemic and was provided in a very short time frame.”

Instead the district will be following guidelines from the Oregon Department of Education for Comprehensive Distance Learning, which is more rigorous and provides a more engaging, robust learning experience for students, Peters wrote. “We are also actively planning for hybrid learning which will include some in-school instruction when we are allowed, based on improved health metrics at the state and county levels.”

Peters stated, “We know the importance of face-to-face learning, and the vital sense of community and connection that students have with their classmates and teachers. At this time the decision to open in a Comprehensive Distance Learning format focuses on our highest priority during this pandemic, student and staff safety.”

Administrators and building teams have been preparing “building blueprints” and detailing the plans for the upcoming school year. This includes steps to be implemented to keep students and staff safe during in-school learning when that begins. Building blueprints will be posted on the district website next week, along with a way for parents to provide feedback, Peters wrote.

“We all play an important role in limiting the spread of the virus within our community, which is reflected in our health metrics,” she added.

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