SLSD updates its hybrid learning plan

New metrics could mean quicker return to in-person learning

In light of Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement of changes to Oregon’s school metrics on Oct. 30, South Lane School District (SLSD) has updated its hybrid learning model.

“In short, they’ve made it easier for us to open to in-person learning for students,” said SLSD Curriculum Director Jeremy Smith during a virtual presentation to parents on Tuesday.

The new metrics highlight the importance of returning to in-person instruction. Changes included a two-week “look back” at the metrics data rather than one week at a time over a three-week period and the removal of state positivity rate in favor of county positivity rates.

While the new guidelines will allow more students to return to in-person instruction with health and safety measures in place, Lane County’s COVID-19 case rate is currently too high to welcome students back into classrooms.

Even so, the relaxed requirements may allow students to return to in-school instruction under the hybrid model sooner than expected.

SLSD currently employs a Comprehensive Distance Learning method, in which most students attend virtual classes. The hybrid model would mean students split their learning time between home and the classroom.

Standards for moving to a hybrid model are based on county case rate and test positivity.

Oregon Health Authority data released on Monday listed Lane County cases at 133.6 per 100,000 with a test positivity of 7.6 percent between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7.

A case rate of less than 100 is required to move into a hybrid model.

New state guidance has included changes such as limited in-person class sizes. 

Previously restricted to 10 or fewer students, the school district may now bring in groups of up to 20 students identified as being in need of assistance during distance learning.

There is also a continued focus on preventative measures. Safety features are to include required face coverings for staff and students inside and outside buildings, possible use of face shields and plexiglass, making space for 35 square feet per student, sanitation between groups of students cycling through classrooms and increased ventilation of rooms and buildings.

Students provided with Chromebooks and hotspots will be able to keep these during the transition as well.

The school district anticipates the earliest transitions to hybrid learning occurring no sooner than Nov. 30 for grades PK-3. 

As previously planned, there will continue to be a focus on elementary grades first with the gradual inclusion of secondary grades over several months.

Health authorities have reasoned that younger children are in a lower risk group for COVID-19 and a slow inclusion of higher grades will allow time for careful data collection as districts progress toward in-person models of learning.

Based on this and the staggered starts of trimesters and semesters, grades 4-5 will likely not see a transition sooner than Dec. 14, while middle school grades are aiming for Jan. 5 and high school grades Feb. 8.

All dates, however, are subject to change depending on county metrics and guidelines handed down by the state.

Under the hybrid model, PK-5 grade students will attend either for three hours in the morning or three hours in the afternoon Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, maintaining a “Wellness Wednesday” in which staff can check in with students.

Grades 6-12 will attend two full days per week under various cohort models depending on the school.

“We’re hoping to have cohorts A and B announced by Dec. 11 so parents can do some planning,” said Lincoln Middle School Principal Bill Bechen.

“I want to be clear here: We are not planning on bringing all students back every day,” said Smith. “We would not be able to meet the safety requirements that the state has laid out for us.”

Meals will also continue to be provided five days a week.

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