After Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) announced last week that K-1 students would be returning to school buildings on a part-time basis in early-March, members of the district cabinet outlined further plans to get the remainder of students back in the classroom in a presentation to the school board on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Elementary staff will begin returning to their respective schools on Feb. 22. K-1 students will return on March 2, followed by Grades 2-3 on March 9 and Grades 4-5 on March 16.
Students will go to school two days per week and then continue with their classes online for the remainder of the week. State health guidelines require masks and physical distancing — classrooms need to have at least 35 square feet of space per person and will hold approximately 15 students at a time.
Though nearly the entire school year has been held remotely thus far, the district has been doing Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPPI) since the fall. SKPS Superintendent Christy Perry believes that the success of LIPPI has helped the district facilitate a good plan for a hybrid model.
“The way that we have used limited in-person instruction has prepared us for this moment,” Perry said. “If we had to go back and do it again, we would do it just like we did, because we practiced.”
While the dates for return for elementary education are set in stone, the district, at this point, is still unsure when secondary education (Grades 6-12) will be able to return to in-person school part-time — the soonest they could come back is in early-April, but a date for return has not yet been set.
Assistant superintendent Iton Udosenata explained to the board that secondary education is more difficult to facilitate due to limited space, larger cohorts, scheduling and transportation issues and the lack of access to some classes — such as certain performance arts classes.
“We know there is a lot of movement with the secondary schedule, going through periods one through five, and that creates some stress on the master schedule,” Udosenata said.
The district is currently considering two hybrid options for secondary students. The first option looks similar to the elementary model as students would attend in-person school two days per week and do the rest of their schoolwork remotely. SKPS is also considering having a model that includes applied learning days for students along with two days of in-person classes.
Applied learning days would allow students to receive extra support from educators — either in-person or via distance learning — on the days where their cohort isn’t attending school. While it’s not a clear substitution for core in-person instruction, it would allow students four days of engagement with school staff.
“We’re looking at very creative ways to make it a possibility to work to adjust the student cohorting so there might be availability for a teacher during the applied learning days, but we don’t have those details worked out just yet,” Udosenata said.
If families request for their students to stay in remote learning, they should contact their resident school administrator, who will discuss options with the family, answer questions and submit a request for the family’s student(s) to remain in remote learning.
Udosenata also said that the district is planning to allow strings/orchestra and percussion to begin instruction at the secondary level under the LIPPI model — the district is still awaiting safety protocols in order to plan for band and choir. Elementary choir and orchestra began virtually last week and will remain online for the foreseeable future.