No in-person classes until November — at earliest

McNary High School

The hybrid-learning model that Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) personnel had been planning for September will have to be put on hold for the time being. 

On Tuesday, July 28, hours after the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), along with Gov. Kate Brown, gave additional guidance for schools that included metrics on safely reopening schools for in-person instruction, SKPS Superintendent Christy Perry announced that all students will begin the school year in Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL).

CDL will take the place of in-person instruction for at least the first nine weeks of the school year. Students in kindergarten through 10th grade will not attend in-person classes until the week of Nov. 16 — which signals the start of the second quarter of the school year. 

Students in 11th and 12th grade will not attend in-person classes until the beginning of second semester, which begins in the first week of February 2021. 

“We know this is heartbreaking for those students and families who were counting on (Continued from Page A1)

in-person learning in September, but this direction from the state prioritizes the safety of our educators, children and families, and community. Make no mistake, Comprehensive Distance Learning this fall will not look like distance learning from last year,” Perry said in a letter to families.

Students in the CDL model will participate in online learning at home on a full-time, but temporary basis. The plan for CDL students is to move them into a blended learning model — which involves in-person and online learning — as soon as it is safe for students and staff. 

“We struggle with this news as you do. We want what you want: to go back to the way we were pre-COVID. We miss our students in the schools and value in-person learning, which is where we want to be sooner than later,” Perry said.

CDL will have stricter ODE expectations regarding daily teacher facilitated instruction and independent, family-supported applied learning at home than the distance-learning model that took place in the spring. Attendance will also be taken for every period. 

However, students do have another option besides CDL for the 2020-21 school year. 

Earlier this month, SKPS introduced their Enhanced Digital and Guided Education (EDGE) program, a comprehensive all-online academy. 

The goal for the EDGE program is to pair teacher-led instruction with family-supported and independent at-home application and learning while still staying connected to their school communities — students enrolled in the EDGE program will still be registered at the school they would have attended in person for the school year.

Nearly 2,000 students have already enrolled in the program. 

SKPS plans to start the school year later than normal, using the week of Sept. 8 to establish connections with teachers and families. The official start of the school year for CDL and EDGE students is Sept. 14. 

In a school board meeting on Tuesday, Gweneth Bruey-Finck, the SKPS director of secondary education, explained some of the main differences between EDGE and CDL.

While the goal for CDL students is to eventually get to blended learning, EDGE students will remain online all year long. 

Through CDL, students in grades 6-12 will have a reduced or streamlined course load. 

“For example, instead of high school students having eight courses to manage all at once, they will instead only have four at a time. For middle school, instead of having seven courses at a time, they will have five courses at a time,” Bruey-Finck said. “It helps to streamline teacher-to-family communication.

Even with a reduced course load, high school students will still have the ability to meet their credit requirements.

“It’s basically taking all of you’re A-day classes and you meet every day for a semester, and then you take all of your B-day classes for a semester,” Bruey-Finck said.

Bruey-Finck also said that CDL students will be on the reduced course load schedule, even if the district is able to provide blended learning later in the year.

In order to facilitate some kind of in-person learning this school year, Marion County, as well as every other county in the state, has to meet these three metrics for three weeks consecutive weeks. 

• The state COVID-positive testing rate must remain at or below 5%.

• The county must have 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days.

• The countywide test positivity rate must be 5% or less over that same time period.

While it wasn’t an ideal announcement to hear, Perry remains optimistic about the situation the district is in, given the circumstances.

“The thing that I like about this plan is that it will give us a way to test out our health and safety protocols in a smaller way than a full blended learning model. I don’t like the fact that we’re not starting in person, I’m just trying to think about the benefits,” Perry said. “We can transition slowly into in-person (learning) and have tested out our health and safety protocols so that we are sure it’s safe for out students, staff and community to come back into our schools.”