District sets targets for returning students to classrooms throughout Salem-Keizer

Salem-Keizer Public Schools

As of Tuesday, Jan. 19, employees in Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS), as well as the rest of Marion County, are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the state fairgrounds through Salem Health’s vaccine clinic.

The school district notified employees on Monday, Jan. 18 of the news and encouraged all staff members that work with students in person to get vaccinated — employees, however, aren’t required to get the vaccine.

At the school board meeting on Tuesday, SKPS Superintendent Christy Perry told the board that she estimated that 1,000 people or more were vaccinated at the fairgrounds on the first day the vaccine became available.

Perry also said that the district is currently prioritizing elementary staff, as well as secondary staff that is responsible for limited in-person instruction, and any district level staff — such as a community outreach specialist — to be vaccinated as the district prepares to begin the process of bringing kids back to school.

“We knew that, based on the supply of the vaccine, that it was really important to prioritize,” Perry said.

If Marion County is still considered a high risk county at the end of February, on-site COVID-19 testing will be required at SKPS schools on March 1.

“If we’re in the red, and kids are experiencing symptoms at school, you have to initiate that rapid test,” Perry said. “The tests, as I understand it, are pretty easy and can be self-administered, but again we have got to look at the guidance from Oregon Health Authority… It’s a hiccup in our system that we have to figure out.”

Later in the meeting, assistant superintendent Kraig Sproles shared a timeline for in-person learning that the district hopes to abide by.

SKPS plans to bring back kindergartners and first graders for blended learning starting in late-February while other grade elementary levels will be added incrementally in early-March.

By March 12, the district hopes to have a K-5 blended model at all elementary schools.

At the beginning of the third quarter (Feb. 1), the district plans to expand limited in-person supports for high school seniors, students with disabilities and students that are falling behind in their classes. By the start of fourth quarter (April 1), the district is hoping to be in a blending learning model for all middle and high schoolers — depending on operational constraints and COVID-19 guidance.

“There are still some things we are unsure about as it relates to the guidance, so we are going to take it one day at a time and do our best to make sure we have a path forward for implementing the guidance and getting the kids back to in-person (learning),” Perry said. “We are still working hard and are committed to figuring out how we bring back our youngest learners as quick as we can.”