Dear Santiam Community,
The Winter Break is quickly approaching. I want to thank our families, community and staff for working together through this challenging school year. Wildfires and COVID closures have created a difficult environment for schooling, yet we will continue to do all we can to provide the best solutions for our students. There is no ‘right answer’ as to how to handle this situation moving forward, but below is our plan for schooling and the rationale for it.
PLEASE NOTE: All plans are subject to change based on conditions as they develop. I have to set plans so we can prepare for the best possible education for our students, but we must continue to evaluate our current situation for any needed changes to also provide a safe environment.
FACTORS INFLUENCING OUR PLANS:
- We have strict COVID requirements set by the State of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Education, linked HERE.
- We realize that some students/families feel comfortable returning to school, while some do not.
- Providing options during this time is important, but it does make the job of our teachers very challenging.
- If we reopen our schools, we must do it safely.
- Staffing in-person learning could become an issue if we have too many staff out due to COVID illness or exposure to others who potentially have COVID.
- Even when we reopen schools, we may have to suspend in-person learning for a few students, or a class, or an entire school based on COVID cases.
- We will continue to work closely with the Oregon Health Authority on all decisions.
- We will need families to be cautious in sending students to school if they are concerned about symptoms or possible exposure, to help keep our schools safe and open.
- Things are constantly changing, so we will need to be flexible.
THE PLAN FOR RETURNING STUDENTS:
- Santiam Elementary School- has been in the planning stage of returning students to in-person learning on January 4. Based on recent information and current COVID trends and research, I am moving the opening date January 11, 2021. All students will return to distance learning on January 4, but the families who selected the in-person learning option will start this on January 11. Why pick the 11th to start in-person school? The reason for starting in-person learning on January 11 is to give time for post-holiday COVID exposures to either show symptoms or allow the contagious phase of the virus to subside based on the latest CDC guidelines. It is sort of a post-holiday quarantine before starting school. Starting in-person learning on January 4 could bring unknown holiday cases into the schools before symptoms show up, which could cause more spread. By delaying, it gives us a better chance of limiting exposure when we open and it gives me a chance to evaluate the current situation when we return in January. We want to reopen for K-5 students, but we need to do it mindfully to keep it safe and limit the spread. Hopefully by delaying the opening until the 11th, it gives us a better chance of staying open and keeping safe facilities for our students and staff.
- Santiam Junior/Senior High School- is in the planning phase for returning students to in-person learning options, starting the second semester, which is February 16. This date has been set because we can make all the needed schedule changes reflected in the second semester schedules. Since secondary students have multiple teachers/classes each day, the logistics of meeting COVID protocols for safety become much more challenging. We are working on plans now and will communicate them to families when the time gets closer.
We see a real value in allowing students back on campus. We know this has been a difficult experience for many families. By allowing some students on campus and some to stay working from home, it offers options to families to allow them to select what is best for them and it helps keep our in-person student numbers low to limit exposures even more. This work is not easy and our staff will have a heavy lift ahead to do both in-person and distance learning.
Distance Learning will resume on January 4, 2021 for all students. For K-5 students, we will add the in-person learning option on January 11. We will keep watching data and trends to keep our students safe and work to reopen our schools for students.
The Detroit Hub location and the Santiam Junior/Senior High School Hub location will resume service on January 4. The Santiam Elementary School Hub will close at the end of this week, as they prepare for in-person learning in the building.
Thank you and stay safe,