With the continuous increase of Coronavirus- or COVID-19- cases, the North Clackamas School District held a board meeting on November 12th to discuss the probabilities of kids returning to school in person. Bringing into consideration things such as the number of cases per day, how many students would be allowed to attend at once, and how long it would take to apply social distance and mask rules/regulations to Clackamas High School.
“To be transparent; it is probably several months away” Superintendent Matt Utterback states about transitioning into hybrid learning. Before we even have the opportunity to transition into hybrid learning NCSD would first need to take action to ensure a smooth transition and the health of NCSD students. Firstly the NSCD district would need to provide teacher’s multi-week long training on starting school again. Utterback also reported that 200+ staff were laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic and we would need to ask them to come back when we do start hybrid learning. If the teachers don’t choose to come back we would need to mass hire a new set of teachers and also provide them with a multi-week training. NCSD would also have to create new bus routes to ensure the safety of NCSD students.
When we properly are ready for hybrid learning with all preparations and low Covid-19 cases we can begin transitioning students into hybrid learning. Grades levels would slowly be added into schools- starting with kindergarten. We must create new rules to implement into NCSD schools. This would include new mask regulations and a way students can function in a classroom while also staying 6ft apart. Although Utterback reported NCSD will not be taking temperature checks as students come into the building due to too many students. Although Utterback did state students would be shuffled into different classrooms depending on which students and teachers come back and which don’t.
Director Steven Schroedl raised the issue that reopening and closing multiple times will affect the education of the students having to adjust. Superintendent Utterback does not think that it will be disruptive, since students have already been experiencing Comprehensive Distance Learning for months. Clackamas High School ASB Public Relations Officer, Kayla Magura, and President, Jack Wetzel, both found his statement to be surprising. They believe that gaps in learning from this plan are inevitable, but that the toll on our social life and mental health is much more pertinent. Wetzel believes that the inconsistency of in-person school and consistently not knowing what education will look like in the next couple of weeks will hinder students’ progression. “I don’t think adults realize how much of a mental strain it is” Wetzel says.
Kayla Magura, the ASB Public Relations Officer at Clackamas High School, feels saddened by the Superintendent’s expectations, but she does not feel surprised. “It’s just how it has to be I guess” Magura states.
Jack Wetzel, the ASB President at Clackamas High School, concurs with Magura that it is an unideal situation. However, he understands that the school board and Governor Brown are taking all of the steps necessary in order to bring COVID-19 to its knees. Wetzel says that he will vocalize resentment towards the higher powers, when in fact he is only upset at how the actions are an inconvenience to his life. In reality, he knows that what they do is all with good heart and intention.
Utterback also continued to mention even though ‘hybrid learning’ planning is paused until numbers go down to where the district wants them, small sports groups have started at various schools in the district. “ We are continuing sports, and continuing to watch it closely.” A Putnam Senior on the football team shared that the football team is taking precautions very seriously with temperature checks as well as Google surveys about all the teammate’s health.
Despite the COVID outbreak among one of the athletic pods in the district, Wetzel believes that the importance of participating in athletics outweighs the risk of infection, “arguably it might happen even more if they’re not playing a sport.” According to Utterback’s evaluation, outbreaks on school grounds happen because of choices that staff or students take outside of school. The more time that athletes are on the field instead of at home, the more that they are being COVID-conscious. Wetzel goes on to say that staying at home makes people bored. When they are bored, they are led to make impulsive and adventurous decisions, whether or not it is following COVID guidelines.
As Matt Utterback stated, “Has it been easy? Absolutely Not!…” For Milwaukie Academy of the Arts Senior Zoe Robinson, when asked how she felt about our new way of learning, CDL? She had nothing but honest positivity, “It’s not as bad as I thought it was gonna be and I like the more flexible school hours where we only have two classes a day except Wednesday when we only have one.” So from that Zoe is feeling very confident in our new distant learning environment. Although when asked about the possibility of going into the ‘hybrid learning’ online plus some small in-person groups, her confidence isn’t as steady. She explains her concern, “I feel like it will be all kinds of crazy with some kids not wanting to wear a mask or social distance.” Matt Utterback continuously mentioned in the meeting that once our covid numbers get where they need to be he will “Prioritize the younger grades first”.
At the last NCSD School Board Meeting (10/22) it was decided that Comprehensive Distance Learning would continue until February 9, 2021, and that they would revisit the timeline if the metrics changed. Because Governor Kate Brown made changes to the metric on October 30th, adjustments were made to the guidelines that would allow students to go back to school. Two major changes were made that affect the North Clackamas School District. The first major change is that when using a county’s number of Covid-19 cases to consider going back to school, they will only be looking at the previous two weeks instead of the previous three weeks as they had done before. This change allows for consistency and now aligns with CDC guidelines. The second major change that was made is that limited in-person instruction has now changed from a cohort size of 10 to 20, increasing the maximum number of students a teacher can see to 60. However, due to an increase in coronavirus cases in Oregon, Limited In-Person Instruction that was put in place to start soon for certain NCSD students has been put on pause until further notice. This is the fourth school board meeting NCSD has hosted virtually during the current 2020-2021 school year and they will continue to reevaluate the hybrid learning plan as needed.
The NCSD board discussed important topics that all contribute to whether or not schools should, or can, open during the 2020-2021 school year. School board executive Utterback stated the statistics “863 cases in the past week”, keeping that in mind, and the virus going in the exact opposite direction of how they hoped, the chances of school reopening any time soon are looking slim to none.