Canby School District officials gave school board members and parents an early look Thursday night at the proposed hybrid schedules and other guidelines that would be in place to reopen schools and reintroduce some in-person learning this fall, amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
More detailed information and schedules were emailed to all parents Friday afternoon, with virtual presentations being offered for each school throughout next week. The district has another month before it must submit its finalized plan to the Oregon Department of Education.
Administrators at each school were given latitude to develop their own “blueprints” for reopening — which was particularly useful for more unique facilities like Ninety-One School in Hubbard, which functions as both an elementary and middle school.
Like most districts in the area, Canby has opted for a hybrid model, one that will combine some in-person instruction with continued distance and online learning each week — something district officials had already signaled last month.
The district was forced to this route by the state’s strict social distancing rules, requiring students to be kept at least six feet apart at all times, and giving every person inside a school building a minimum of 35 square feet of space.
District officials showed school board members what this looks like during a Zoom work session Thursday, but it effectively cuts the occupancy of most classrooms in half.
Administrators tried various scenarios to solve this riddle, including utilizing space at the district’s former Ackerman Middle School, but it came down to a question of staffing. And with Canby schools already projecting a budget shortfall — it’s unlikely the district will be able to bring on more teachers.
Students will be divided into small groups of 12 to 20 and will have limited interaction with other students throughout the day — which is meant to minimize exposure and facilitate contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
Each school will follow a schedule of two-on, three-off, with students being divided into two main groups based on their last names. Some exceptions would be available for blended families or to accommodate other needs. All students will be learning from home on Mondays.
Canby High School, for example, proposed that students with the last names of A-L would attend classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while those with last names M-Z would receive distance learning those days. The schedule would be reversed on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Monday, dubbed “Cougar Day,” would feature a variety of activities — but would be fully distance and online for all students.
Canby will also offer a completely online option, with assistance from a curriculum provider like Edgenuity — which the district currently uses.
While acknowledging the hybrid schedule is “certainly disruptive in many ways,” and that most would prefer a return to more traditional instruction, Superintendent Trip Goodall said that teachers interacting with smaller groups is likely to benefit many students.
“I know we’ve been talking about what it would be like to have a class of 12 students,” he said. “I think we’re going to be learning a lot about how students learn in much smaller groups.”
Of course, with everything that’s changed, teachers themselves will be learning more than ever before. Goodall chuckled as he explained that, in normal school years, administrators begin by revisiting the teachers’ manual and discussing what changes may have come over the summer.
“This year, it’s almost like a brand-new, completely new manual,” Goodall said.
To facilitate the more time that teachers will need to prepare, the Canby School Board on Thursday voted to move the first day of school to Tuesday, Sept. 8 — after Labor Day. This reduces the number of student contact days by four.
Earlier Thursday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued a statement recognizing that “school this fall will not look like a normal year,” and calling on districts to ensure that underserved and marginalized students get the support and opportunities they need.
“We cannot allow our response to this pandemic to increase racial disparities in educational outcomes,” she said. “Whether or not kids are in school buildings this fall, we must provide the very best possible education for every single Oregon student, while ensuring that the school experience is as safe as possible for everyone: students, educators, support staff, parents, and the community at large.”
More information, answers to frequently asked questions and a schedule for next week’s virtual meetings is available below, courtesy the Canby School District: