Students of the South Lane School District (SLSD) returned to school on Monday, Sept. 28, putting into motion months of preparation for a Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) model, a public health-conscious approach to education.
Though grades K-3 had been planned to be phased into a hybrid model of in-person and CDL schooling, COVID-19 metrics for Lane County have increased in recent weeks, forcing school dis-tricts throughout the county to put in-person education for lower grades on hold.
Oregon Department of Education (ODE) allows an exemption for K-3 students to attend in-person classes providing certain metrics are met. Lane County surpassed those metrics during the week of Sept. 13.
With the increased coronavirus rates, the district’s goal to transition to a hybrid model for all grades by Nov. 2 may also not be met.
To return to in-person instruction, school districts must be in a county that meets certain criteria.
For three weeks in a row, a county must maintain a case rate of 10 cases or less per 100,000 of the population and a test positivity rate of 5 percent or less in the preceding seven days.
Statewide, the metrics must hold at a test positivity rate of 5 percent or less in the preceding sev-en days, also for three weeks.
So far, Oregon has not yet met the standard. For the week of Sept. 20–26, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported Oregon’s cases per 100,000 at 48.1 and test positivity at 6.3 percent.
Furthermore, Lane County has seen a steep rise in the number of cases.
For the week starting Sept. 20, OHA reported the county as having 64.9 cases per 100,000 and a 7.1 percent positivity in testing.
The trend seems to be reflected locally as well. Lane County Public Health data on Wednesday listed COVID-19 cases as having risen to 45 in ZIP code 97424.
The setback means SLSD and other districts’ timelines for learning models in this school year may change, though SLSD officials could not speculate yet on what a new timeline might look like.
Despite the sudden readjustment, reports surrounding the implementation of distance learning were largely positive at a Sept. 28 SLSD board meeting.
South Lane Education Association Representative Dawn Stetina reported to the board that she had the chance to observe some Google Classroom sessions in person.
“It looks pretty solid,” she said. “It was pretty fun to watch and I have to admit I was pleasantly amazed and surprised.”
South Lane and other districts have been putting staff through hours of professional development courses to ensure a seamless return to school under the CDL model.
Around 1,360 Chromebooks and 220 internet hot spots have been made available to ensure students have access to remote learning.
SLSD Superintendent Yvonne Curtis told the board that the readjustment for the younger students seemed to be working.
“They did a successful pivot to CDL,” she said. “They had kids online today. A lot of theirs will be packets probably in the first two to three weeks.
“We’re hoping to get more online going.”