All grade levels in CSD plan to return to on-site learning by mid-April

Cheldelin Middle School science teacher, Alexis McQuillan, and her cohort will be returning to in person classes the week of April 12th. All students will have the option for in person learning by April 19th.

Angela Tam, News Contributor

The Corvallis School District plans to have grades six through nine students return by the week of April 12, and seventh through twelfth grade students will be able to return by the week of April 19. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have previously barred students from in-person and followed remote learning guidelines to stop the spread of the virus.

The district proposed a hybrid model schedule which limits the number of hours a student spends in the classroom per week, and remains unchanged for all students who wish to continue with this method. Students who engage in the hybrid model attend school either Monday/Tuesday, or Thursday/Friday with Wednesday being completely remote for all students. 

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As a result, every student will have two days of in-person instruction per week, and three of remote instruction, ensuring that class sizes are limited under Oregon state COVID-19 guidelines. 

Terese Jones, board member on the Corvallis School District Board, said that students are divided into three cohorts: two of the cohorts being the Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday arrangement. 

“Cohort C is our continued distance-learning students,” Jones said. “These are students that aren’t coming back in person, when we resume limited in-person. They will continue having access to distance learning as they have been.”

Although vaccines have been rolling out to the public in phases, the school district is continuing to attempt to mitigate the effects of the virus as not all students have received the vaccine due to the limit of eligibility being that the resident must be 16 years or older. 

Grades two through five, College Hill and WINGS hybrid students were the most recent group to rejoin on-site learning, rejoining this week of March 29 as previously planned by the district. College Hill, independent high-school study program, and WINGS, post-high school transition program, consist of older students, some of which may have been able to qualify for the vaccine. 

Alexis McQuillan, a science teacher at Cheldelin Middle School said there are strict protocols being put in place for the middle school level. For instance, leaving and entering the school building, standing in line and moving in-between classes. 

According to Jones, these protocols rely heavily on teachers to be mindful and attentive. They should be attentive to hand-washing, sanitizing and helping students to maintain distance. 

Jones said parents also should be diligent in reminding students to make sure that they go to school with a mask or two. At home, reinforcement of safety protocols should also be practiced. 

McQuillan has been engaging in limited in-person instruction since Nov. 30, teaching five students twice a week. When her cohort returns to in-person instruction in the week of April 12, the largest class size will be around 14 students. 

“The kids that I’ve had so far have been awesome,” McQuillan said. “No problems with the masks, they hang out at their desks and don’t run around or anything. Frankly, they’re just so excited to be back and have some of that personal connection… [and I think] that they’re totally going to follow the rules.”

McQuillan said during the preparation for the Where Everybody Belongs after-school mentor program, eighth grade mentors were doing a great job at following social distancing protocols and that they were very aware of what they were supposed to do. 

“I think, generally, it’s going to go very well,” McQuillan said. “I don’t really have any concerns. The kids need to be back so badly, and they’re so excited to be back. Kids are generally tired of online school, so I think they’re going to do a great job.”

Jones, however, has some concerns regarding the reintegration of the students. 

“I just don’t want us to underestimate the level of disruption that it could be for kids to suddenly be in a new space, but not quite,” Jones said. “They know their buildings, they’ve been in them before in most cases, but they haven’t been in them in this way.  

Jones hopes that faculty and staff members are cognizant of these changes, and to be particularly sensitive about the mental wellness of students during this period of reintegration. 

Additionally, with reintegration, another of Jones’ concerns is keeping schools open. But, Jones said that this will not be possible without significant community involvement in keeping students and faculty safe and healthy.

“If we are giving our teachers the very best possibility for a healthy learning environment, I believe that our teachers will bring the leadership that is needed to teach our children and help that space to be focused on learning and education,” Jones said. “That’s on the community to ensure that we equip them.”