LINCOLN COUNTY — During Monday’s meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, Lincoln County School District Superintendent Karen Gray outlined plans for the return to in-person classes.
Starting Monday, Oct. 12, the district will begin on-site instruction under two exceptions allowed by the Oregon Department of Education, one for students in kindergarten through third grade and the other for certain categories of special education students. Gray told the board this was possible because the county had fewer than 30 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of less than 5 percent, and there were zero staff or student cases in any school, for the past three weeks.
First back into buildings will be kindergarteners under a hybrid-learning model — half will begin Oct. 12 and the rest on Oct. 13. The first group will attend Mondays and Thursdays, and the second will be in school on Tuesdays and Fridays. On other weekdays, they’ll participate in comprehensive distance learning, as they have full-time since Sept. 21. The district will continue to provide fully online learning for all students whose parents are not yet comfortable sending them back into schools.
The district also plans to begin “limited in-person instruction” — two hours a day — for career and technical education students in all four high schools, the superintendent said, as well as for some special education students.
If county infection rates remain low and schools remain COVID-free, Gray said, they plan to start first-graders on a hybrid model in another two weeks. She said second- and third-graders would start Nov. 9, again, if health metrics hold.
“Our goal is that by the new year we’ve gone fully hybrid,” Gray said, adding that they hoped to have full-time school by the end of the academic year.
Also on Oct. 12, schools will begin some athletic programming with strength and conditioning workouts led by coaches, according to an update from Gray emailed to parents on Oct. 2. “As workouts progress, LCSD staff will continue to evaluate our ability to begin to utilize equipment, indoor spaces and possibly county competitions prior to season 2 beginning in December,” she wrote.
Gray told commissioners the county’s progress to phase two of reopening allowed the district to open its playgrounds. They’ll be closed to the public during school hours, she said, and disinfected after each period of use.
Comprehensive distance learning will continue for the time being for most students in the district, and Gray said the recent wildfires in the north county created a particular challenge for some.
The superintendent told the board, “We have 358 students who live in the Otis area, and 57 students are homeless now and having a very hard time accessing our online comprehensive distance learning model. Some are housed all over the state. The ones that here are largely housed in hotels with inadequate Wi-Fi. We are really concerned about where these Lincoln City families are going to go.” She said she’d just heard from the department of education that “Lincoln County is on the list — if we have specific students displaced by fires, we can have them in for in-person instruction.”
Gray noted that the state’s low infection rates among school-age kids supported the cautious approach to commencing in-person instruction. Among 580,000 students in the state, 5,000 had contracted the novel coronavirus, and 60 have been hospitalized, she said. “Very low infection rates — it’s hard to argue with.”