North Santiam School District
January 5, 2021
Message from the Superintendent
This message comes to you in a hopeful time, despite the dramatic increases in COVID cases in Oregon and across the United States.
On December 23rd, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced several steps she was taking to assist Oregon students and teachers to return to in-person school. The Governor has now moved her guidance for school re-opening to an “advisory” rather than a “mandatory” requirement. This means that individual districts will be the deciders on whether to move to in-person instruction. This move, however, does not represent a simple “all clear” giving Districts complete freedom. The Governor’s letter directs the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority to update the State’s metrics for returning to in-person instruction by January 19th, 2021. She further requires all schools to continue to conform to the mandatory elements of the Safe Schools guidance.
Once the changes to the metrics have been released, the District will evaluate the safety of transitioning to in-person school. Other factors will also be considered, including the rate of COVID cases in the area. The District will continue to monitor local cases and incorporate these rates into its decision-making, because a single case of a student could move an entire classroom and several staff into quarantine for 14 days. This disruption would be larger at our high school for any single case. The potential for these disruptions must be taken into account.
The District made the statement in early October that the second quarter of the 2020-21 school year would be in a distance-learning format. In the present circumstances, the District will no longer simply declare our schools to be in distance learning for a whole quarter. To declare our schools closed for the third quarter (early February through mid-April) would possibly eliminate time which could be in school. Governor Brown also prioritized elementary schools in her announcement. It is therefore possible that some schools in the District may open earlier than others, depending on conditions. Variables such as the rate that staff can be vaccinated and the level of COVID infection in our communities will play a role. The situation is simply too fluid, with too many factors that are unknown at this point. We ask for your patience and know that we will continue to communicate.
We want to emphasize that the District will continue with Comprehensive Distance Learning and Limited In-Person Instruction for the immediate future, and students will begin the third quarter of the year in the current format. When the decision is made to return a school to In-Person Learning, the District will issue communication well in advance of any school making the transition. We understand parent schedules would need to be re-arranged, and many details of the transition would need to be worked out from the school perspective, including staffing changes, busing, computers, and safety. We are aware that some parents are not yet ready to send their students back to school, and we are working on an option to continue in distance learning for those families.
We regret that this letter contains no specific return date that parents can point to, and we know that is frustrating. Our decisions must be made with safety in mind, and we must consider several variables that cannot be known at this time. The safety of students and staff is our duty every day of every school year, and we will be vigilant in any return-to-school scenario. At the same time, we want to assure you that we know where our students learn best—in our schools with our staff. We look forward to that day, we know it is coming, and we look to the future with optimism.
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