July 20, 2020 (updated 7/21/2020)
Dear HRCSD Families,
I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well and enjoying the beautiful summer in the Columbia Gorge.
I am writing today to provide important information about the work HRCSD has been doing to get our buildings, campuses, and classrooms ready for school in the Fall. I want to start by extending my deep gratitude for your partnership and patience as we navigate the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic while simultaneously undergoing substantial leadership change in the district. Your continued support of your student(s) and your ongoing feedback and contributions to our district priorities are welcome and make us stronger. Serving our students, families, and the Hood River County community is a privilege and my top priority.
School Safety Planning
Our school and district administrators have been busy planning, as directed by the recent guidance provided by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners plan. This plan focuses on safely re-entering our buildings while meeting the requirements necessary to keep our students, staff, and community safe. This guidance is informed by what is now known about the coronavirus and with an understanding that I will continue to navigate the state’s evolving efforts to mitigate COVID-19. Oregon Health Authority (OHA) epidemiologists contributed to this guidance by providing clear health and safety protocols that will help us prepare for a variety of scenarios.
The Ready Schools, Safe Learners planning requires the school district to provide plans in three broad areas: Public Health Protocols, Facilities and School Operations and Response to Outbreak. Each category covers aspects of safety: Arrival and Dismissal, Cohorting, Transportation, Physical Distancing, Face Coverings, Sanitation, etc… A couple of important items to note are:
- As of today, staff and students will be required to wear face masks while at school.
- Classroom spaces will be arranged to meet the 6ft. distance
- Cleaning of hands, as well as surfaces and high touch areas, are prioritized in our plans
School and District teams are working in collaboration with the Hood River County Health Department developing and refining our safety plans for reopening. These plans must be completed and submitted to the HRCSD School Board by August 12, 2020. After the school board reviews the safety plans, HRCSD will submit each plan to the Oregon Department of Education.
School Reentry Planning
Our goal remains to safely bring all students and staff back to campus full time. However, physical distancing requirements, and classroom sizes, the square footage in each room, make it difficult to accomplish that goal. I also recognize that not all families want to have their students physically attending school. With this consideration in mind, the HRCSD School Reentry Plan was developed with the following considerations:
- The health and safety of students, staff, and community
- The ability to switch from full on-site learning to hybrid to distance learning, as needed
- Aligning schedules to the extent possible for families that have more than one school-aged child
- Offering educational choices for families
Therefore, HRCSD will offer parents the opportunity to choose between one of two school models for the Fall of 2020-2021 school year. More details will be announced about how and when families can make their choice.
- On-Site Learning Model: On-site learning means we are providing in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible. We are prepared and ready to move between full on-site, hybrid, or short-term distance learning as needed. Virus transmission rates in our communities will be closely monitored and I will coordinate with the Hood River County Health Department when making decisions related to this learning model.
- Full on-site learning would be most similar to how one normally thinks of school, with all the safety measures, as developed in our safety planning, in place.
- Hybrid learning means limited in-classroom, face-to-face instruction time for students. When in the hybrid learning model, students will attend school in person for part of the week. On days when students are not physically in the buildings, students will engage in online learning, and complete assignments and homework as directed and assigned by their teachers. The amount of time a student spends at school may vary depending on a variety of factors including but not limited to grade level, our ability to meet social distancing requirements, and individual student needs.
- Short-term distance learning means schools will temporarily close to mitigate an outbreak or surge in cases in a school or community.
Currently, HRCSD is planning to begin the Fall in Hybrid Learning Model. This may change based upon an increase or a decrease of COVID-19 in our community.
- On-Line Instruction Model: This option means students attend school 100% online and receive their instruction through a remote learning program. The online learning model will be aligned with the Hood River Options Academy (our current on-line program), utilizing the rigorous and accredited curriculum currently implemented within that program. More details about this option will be available in the coming weeks.
I recognize that our students, families, and community play an essential role in identifying what is needed in our school environments to provide a high quality, equity-focused education for all students. Your participation and feedback are vital to our decision-making. The district will host virtual presentations that will include opportunities for our community to help guide this planning. Please watch for invitations to those meetings in the coming weeks. I will also continue to send out updates as this work evolves and I receive further guidance from ODE.
Throughout the summer months HRCSD’s schools, campuses, and administrative offices will continue to follow the guidelines as directed by the State of Oregon and Hood River County Health Department. Only designated personnel will be working in our buildings. Staff is available via email and phone so please do not hesitate to reach out. Please also watch the district’s web page and social media platforms (Facebook) for up-to-date information.
Thank you for your ongoing participation, support, and patience. I hope you are able to have a safe, healthy, and peaceful summer.
My best to you all,
Rich Polkinghorn, Superintendent
Hood River County School District