INDEPENDENCE — As they are working to implement distance learning for all, Central School District staff also is planning different scenarios for what school might look like in the fall.
“It may be continuing distance learning as we are now,” said CSD Superintendent Jennifer Kubista at the May 4 board meeting. “It could be a mix of partly distance learning and partly small groups in. it could be having everybody back in the building. I don’t know that that’s realistic.”
Kubista and other Oregon superintendents have meetings with the Oregon Department of Education every Tuesday and Friday.
One thing she said is clear from ODE’s guidance is that all students will be moving forward to the next grade level unless a process was started before schools closed down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. In those instances, district staff is having discussions with families, she said.
In discussions about the fall, the district is considering their partnership with the YMCA.
“We have seen how they have built systems of how students come in to childcare in small groups,” Kubista said. “How they check out in small groups. How they deal with sickness, how they deal with staff sicknesses.”
The district may put some of those protocols in place for students, she said.
“I want our community to be prepared that the fall might look a lot like this,” Kubista said.
The district has seven sites for children, she said, including the alternative learning program at Henry Hill and the modular buildings on the newly purchased property across from Ash Creek.
Dallas School District will also plan for the next school year beginning in a non-traditional manner.
Members of the Dallas School Board gave Interim Superintendent Andy Bellando direction to prepare for now only potential budget shortfall, but beginning the school year still with some form of distance learning occurring.
“I want us to remember that COVID ain’t over and districts like LA (Los Angeles) are already talking about 6-foot distancing in classrooms … unless things change a lot,” said Dallas board member Dave Hunt at a board meeting in April. “So, in addition to the economic hits, we need look at the possibility that we will still be facing some additional hardships in how we use our facilities and our staff.”
Board member Matt Posey said schools might need to consider having to provide personal protective equipment for students and staff to be in the buildings.
“That’s a good point because no matter what we do, it might flare up again in the fall,” said board member Jon Woods. “We should also be prepared for that.”
Hunt added that facilities – even the high school auditorium -- will be limited if social distancing is still required in the fall or beyond.
“If we have to observe a 6-foot distance, we can’t have very many people in the classrooms – or the theater,” Hunt said. “So, we may be looking at potential options of continued distance learning. I don’t know at this point, but it’s got to be part of our scenarios that we work on.”
Both districts are considering the impact of COVID-19 on other sources of funding, such as the business tax-supported Student Success Act.
Kubista answered a question from a community member about plans to hire staff with funds from the Student Success Act.
“Here is what we have done at this time,” Kubista said. “We froze all positions that were potentially going to be posted. Any positions we were thinking about posting are on hold. Our goal is to conserve as much as possible. I’m trying to keep the district whole. That’s my goal, but we will know more after the third quarter revenue which is released May 20.”
Kubista said at this point, the district needs people and technology.
Finance Director Cec Koontz said line items in the budget are changing.
“We want to preserve and carry over as much of this budget as we can,” Koontz said. “Cuts are going to come from state school fund. The more of this year’s money we can preserver and protect and move forward, the better we can fill those gaps.”
The district is saving some money since the March shutdown – they are not hiring substitutes or spending money on professional development travel.
“We’re not spending as much on heat and light, our water bill is probably going to go down,” Koontz said.
Kubista said union leadership is part of the conversation.
See a story on page A10 regarding Dallas School District’s 2020-21 budget.