North River School District has been added to the list of of Pacific County schools going to a hybrid instruction model including on campus learning.
The school board voted Tuesday to bring back pre-kindergarten through 5th grade students to in person instruction Thursday. The current plan is to do the same for students in grades 6-12 Dec. 10.
South Bend, Raymond, Ocean Beach, Willapa Valley and Naselle-Grays River school districts have been in hybrid learning models with onsite instruction at some level for several months, with little if any virus-related interruption.
A letter to parents, the district’s 70 students and the North River community from Superintendent Lindsey Maehlum dated Monday, prior to the school board’s approval, said, “The staff at North River has been working tirelessly on our reopening plan.” That plan includes school-provided masks for students, and the option for parents to opt out and continue at home learning “if they do not feel safe sending their child to school.”
Students will attend a morning block, 8-11:45 a.m., or an afternoon block, noon-3:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. There will be no school on Wednesday.
“Students will be grouped in cohorts that stay together during their time at school,” read Maehlum’s letter. “If an individual in our school develops COVID-19, cohorts will help minimize the number of people exposed to it and lessen the disruption of your child’s education. If a peer in the same cohort as your student tests positive, you will be promptly notified.”
The district provided a list of safety procedures, including school buses, staff screening, and how students arrive and depart school buildings. Health screenings are required for anyone who will be at the school for more than 15 minutes, and face coverings are required at all times for students and staff, except to eat or drink — meals will take place in rooms to keep students separated.
More details about the North River plan can be found on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NorthRiverSchoolDistrict.
“We have at this time all grade levels in the hybrid model,” said South Bend Superintendent John Tinehaara. “Monday and Tuesday we have our ‘A’ group of students, and that consists of about half of our students.” The district has 640 students, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
Cohorts are decided by where students live and any sibling students. “We try to keep (the cohort groups) as tight as possible,” said Tinehaara. “Wednesday we have an all remote day, and we take that day to do deep cleanings of all our buildings. Then Thursday and Friday the ‘B’ cohort, the other half of the students, come in.”
South Bend’s hybrid model began Sept. 28 with grades K-6. A week later, preschool was added, and Junior/Senior High students returned Oct. 12. “So we’re about a month into for high school and a month and a half for K-6 and it’s been working well.”
Friday, Nov. 6, the district announced that a student at the Junior/Senior High School in the A cohort had tested positive for COVID-19. The student had last been at the school Nov. 2.
The district followed protocols and immediately worked to identify and inform anyone who may have had close contact with that student. Those identified were informed about “required actions and support resources,” read a district statement. As of Wednesday, that is the only case reported by the district.
Tinehaara said students and teachers alike are happy to be back to face to face instruction, even on a limited basis.
“You can’t imagine how much they love it,” he said. “I’m definitely positive about what we are doing, but nothing can replace five days a week all day, that’s where we need to be,” but at the same time, the health of students, staff and the community are paramount.
The constant guidance and updates from health officials has played a big role in the return to partial on campus learning.
“I really want to emphasize that the health department has really been incredible,” said Tinehaara. “It started back in June with a weekly schools work group. Every superintendent in the county met and talked through all the challenges we anticipated and continue this meeting to this day. It’s really helpful to have that support from the county.”
The district began its in person instruction hybrid model in October. Less than a week later, it had its own positive case in the elementary school to deal with, which it did, allowing the on site learning to continue.
“We have not had any other cases in the schools,” said Superintendent Steve Holland. “Given the increased caseload in the county, however, that’s always a concern.”
For the time being, “Buses continue to drop off kids at 8:15, we screen them, and they start class at 8:30,” said Holland. “Other than preschool, which is all virtual, the kids are learning in a hybrid model. We have divided the students into an ‘A’ group and a ‘B’ group.”
The “A” group attends on Monday and Wednesday, while the “B” group attends on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday is used to talk with parents and students, and prepare for the upcoming week. The district has 597 students, according to OSPI.
The district provides breakfast and lunch “for any student who wants them,” said Holland. Breakfast is eaten at home, while elementary kids eat their lunches in their classrooms. Students in grades 7-12 eat lunch in the cafeteria. All students are given meals to take home for the days they do not attend on campus.
“Students with special needs (special education, bi-lingual, etc.) may attend more than the standard schedule,” said Holland. “This is based on need.”
Since Nov. 13, three district staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. On the district’s Facebook page Monday, it was reported that, “With contact tracing in its early stages and a recommendation from county health, we will move to all remote school through Nov. 29.” The earliest on campus learning would continue would be Nov. 29.
Updates, when the situation calls for it, are posted on the district Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ngrvschools.
The district began its rolling start into on campus learning in late September, with the cohort model used in other districts. In a memo dated Oct. 26, Superintendent Nancy Morris wrote, “This year’s hybrid teaching model is not our preference, but as usual, we are finding ways to make it work.” She said the district was determined “to get students back in the classroom as much as possible and to provide as much support as possible when they must be remote.”