Ready for class

High school science classroom at the new Spruce Drive campus.

Seaside schools will not be shifting to a hybrid model with on-campus instruction by Oct. 26 because of the number of coronavirus cases in Clatsop County.

Students will continue with Comprehensive Distance Learning until the county’s number of COVID-19 cases decline and meet state health requirements for in-person learning.

“It is our highest priority to be able to bring students back in school, but when it is safe to do so,” Superintendent Susan Penrod said during Tuesday’s Seaside School District board meeting.

She made a recommendation to the board of directors to extend Comprehensive Distance Learning through Dec. 4. The administration will review data to see if Clatsop County meets the state’s metrics for safely reopening schools. In order to resume in-person instruction, counties must have no more than 10 positive cases per 100,000 residents.

The district decided to start the school year with distance learning and has completed the review of data need to determine whether to hold in-person classes.

“Once again, we have data in front of us that shows we do not see declining case counts,” she said. Between the second week of April and the week of Oct. 11, she added, “We have had very few weeks of cases below 10 per 100,000.”

Her recommendation, which the board approved, was based on the available data, combined with “the priority of keeping our students and our staff and our families safe,” Penrod said.

In the memo, Penrod noted the district’s leadership team is investigating the possibility of “limited in-person instruction.”

According to the Oregon Department of Education’s guidelines, there is an opportunity for schools to host students in groups of 10 or less for no more than two hours per day. This would be a valuable resource to offer to students who are struggling with engagement, poor Internet connectivity or other issues that are negatively affecting their distance learning, she said.

“There are different ways we can look at that,” she said. “If we’re able to do that before Dec. 4, we’re committed to that.”

Board member Hugh Stelson asked the administration and teachers to share how the school year is going with the district’s distance learning model.

Distance learning is operating more smoothly this fall than in the spring, Pacific Ridge Elementary School Principal Juli Wozniak said. The school has implemented a new learning platform that provides a consistent way to deliver instruction to students.

“We didn’t have all the right tools,” she said.

Jeff Roberts, principal at the middle and high schools, echoed Wozniak’s observations, adding the teachers and staff are growing more adept with the distance learning platforms, as well as methods for assessing and communicating with students.

Although the current system is not without challenges, he said, it’s going “better than I anticipated.”

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