INDEPENDENCE — What will school be like in the fall?
“It is the most important question the community is coming back with,” said Steve Love, Central School District board of directors chair. “What’s the model come September?”
Plans are still in the works, but one thing is certain — it won’t look like last year.
Superintendent Jennifer Kubista spent more than two hours during the July 6 board meeting going over current state guidelines and steps the district is taking to comply.
More than 600 people responded to a survey sent out last week asking for input from families on what they want to see in the 2020-21 school year.
“Eighty percent of respondents would like us to have in-person (teaching) as much as possible,” Kubista said.
There were four different scenarios in the survey.
Three of those had kindergarten through third grade as a priority, with higher grades in cohorts attending in-person lessons in cohorts at reduced hours and days. A fourth option was to enroll all students in distance learning with onsite intervention available.
“How did we come up with those four,” board member Vidal Peña asked.
Kubista said she and the 18 district administrators based them off state guidance and the space available in the district.
It was foundational, she said.
“This is not set in stone, this is something we can build on,” Peña confirmed.
He said that some people thought those four models were the only options, which is incorrect.
The district is forming a 75-person committee, broken down into eight subcommittees: public health protocols; facilities and school operations; response to outbreak; equity; instruction; family and community engagement; mental, social and emotional health; and staffing and personnel.
The district’s “operational blueprint” must be submitted to the Oregon Department of Education by Aug. 15.
Physical distancing — keeping 6 feet between students — and cohorting students are two of the major factors in planning what is feasible.
Kubista said they have gone through the majority of the district’s facilities.
“Most classrooms can hold between 10 and 12 students at a time based on the configuration of our school district,” she said.
That’s not counting the spaces community partners may offer. Kubista said some have already reached out to the district.
Keeping students in cohorts will allow for small groups of students to remain together during activities.
Visitors and volunteers will be limited and as droplets are a big part of the spread of the coronavirus, masks or face shields will be required, Kubista said.
While there is some framework from the Oregon Department of Education, some pieces, such as guidance for athletics and for students with disabilities, is still missing. And the guidance that has already been released, may change.
“We are in the second version of the operational blueprint,” Kubista said. “This plan and the guidance we are receiving will continue to shift during the summer.”
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, there is a possibility the schools might get shut down again, she said.
As they prepare various scenarios of what fall may look like, there also is an emphasis on comprehensive learning.
“In the spring we were starting from scratch,” Love said.
They emphasized the social and emotional aspect of caring for students.
“It will be different in the fall,” he said. “The instructional committee and the work they’re going to do is extremely important in responding to the desires of the community.”
Kubista agreed, instruction is very important, and said the first six weeks of school will look very different.
Board members expressed interest in attending the various committee work sessions so they can stay informed and also be able to share information with community members.
Since there are limits to how many board members can attend a gathering without giving public notice, Cec Koontz, director of finance and operations, said they could give public notice for all the meetings.
“I like the idea of public noticing the Wednesday recap meetings,” Love said.
This week’s meeting won’t be public, said Emily Mentzer, district spokesperson.
“We will let you know as soon as possible if that changes for future meetings,” she said.
Click here for the July 6 agenda.
Click here for Superintendent Jennifer Kubista's presentation.
Click here for a video of the meeting.