SKPS: Detail on how fall semester might take shape

Salem-Keizer School District

While it is still uncertain what school will look like in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) is in discussions with the Oregon Department of Education about how classes could take place in September. 

“We wanted to go through different scenarios to figure out all the different possibilities on how school could work,” said SKPS assistant superintendent Kraig Sproles.

Over the last few weeks, SKPS teams have come up with four different models of what school might look like in the fall.

• Model one: Face-to-face model. School resumes in the fall with direct contact with students and teachers. (May not be “traditional” school model)

• Model two: Hybrid model. School resumes as a combination of some face-to-face contact and some digital learning.

• Model three: Distance learning model. School resumes as a totally distant platform with a primary focus on digital learning.

• Model four: Flexible learning model. Schools become extremely flexible. Students and families have the ability to move from digital delivery to a face-to-face delivery without creating gaps in learning. Online accessibility is run and managed by SKPS. 

When Gov. Kate Brown made the decision to postpone, and then eventually cancel in-person classes earlier this spring, SKPS, along with the rest of the state, went to a distance-learning model that focused solely on virtual learning. Model three would continue that strategy into the fall.

Model one is considered the best-case scenario out of the four options. Although it features in-class interaction with students and teachers, the likelihood of school returning to pre-coronavirus procedures is unlikely according to Sproles.

“Kids would be returning to school, but there would be a greater emphasis on safety. There would be hand-washing stations and greater cleaning protocols,” Sproles said.

One of the other protocols on safety that is being considered under this model is keeping groups of kids in cohorts during school, meaning that the same students would be attending the same classes and lunch breaks all throughout the day.

Sproles said the difficulty in executing that plan would be the transition time between classes and handling the entrances and exits before and after school.

“It would be very difficult to plan for social distancing during transition periods,” Sproles said.

Model two, the hybrid model, could be established in a few different ways.

One example would be having half the students at a school attend class in the morning and do virtual learning in the afternoon — and vice-versa for the other half of kids.

Another option would be having an A-day/B-day class schedule for all K-12 students, where kids would attend school every other day and do virtual learning on the days where they weren’t in class.

However, Sproles is aware of the stress this could potentially cause Salem-Keizer families.

“We realize that this model may be more difficult for our younger students,” Sproles said. “We want to consider how a family would be able to straddle a schedule like that.”

Model four, on the other hand, would be put in place to help the district properly handle numerous scenarios, including the threat of another possible outbreak. 

“The idea with model four is that if there’s another outbreak, schools could transition into a hybrid model quickly and efficiently and still have all the materials to learn from home,” Sproles said.

Sproles also shared how there could be different levels of effect on possible scenarios. The district wants to be prepared for anything from a district-wide shutdown to handling an outbreak among a particular grade level or cohort. 

“If an infection only spread among a grade level or cohort, we could just have that group participate in distance learning from home without having to shut down the entire district,” Sproles said.

SKPS personnel are preparing to send out surveys to parents and teachers looking for feedback on the virtual learning that has taken place this spring and the different possibilities for this fall.

“We’re just trying to learn what has worked well, what hasn’t and what our best options are moving forward,” Sproles said. “We know this has been a hardship on families.”

However, Sproles said that ultimately the final decision would come from the state level and that the ODE, along with Gov. Brown, could have guidance on a decision by as early as next week — although the district wouldn’t be locked into the chosen model if effective treatment for the coronavirus was made available this summer.

“I’m increasingly hopeful that we will have flexibility at the district level,” Sproles said. “We wanted to create a system that would avoid an entire closure.