OROVILLE — The Oroville School Board heard reports on the plans for the start of the 2020/2021 school year which included models for both in-school and remote learning.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hardesty discussed two models for Oroville schools reopening, one for in-person instruction in the classroom and the other for remote learning as the approach of the new school year is just a few weeks away and the COVID-19 pandemic still an issue across the nation. He told the board he would be working off a letter he sent to parents on July 24.
“As we move closer to the school starting in the fall, we know that there are many questions about what school will look like, so I hope to update you on what is taking place to plan for the Oroville School District Reopening,” wrote Supt. Hardesty in the letter. “Our primary goal has been to develop an instructional model for next year that meets the needs of our students and families in the best way possible under the circumstances.”
Hardesty told the board the results of the district’s recent student/parent surveys said that needs vary greatly. Forty-nine percent of the district’s families expressed wanting remote learning during COVID-19 and 47 percent expressed wanting in-school learning within the state restrictions, according to the superintendent. The remaining 3.7 percent responded that they would not be attending school in the Oroville School District next year.
“Those feedback results moved us in a direction. If our goal has been always to attempt to meet the needs of all students and families we felt as though we wanted to move in the direction to provide two instructional models for the 50 percent of the population that want in-school and the other 50 percent that want remote learning only,” said Hardesty.
He went on to say, “Until we are told differently by state officials, or until a significant change to restrictions and requirements for opening schools affect our direction, we are committed to meeting all families’ needs by developing two instructional programs that families may choose between.”
The district convened a Reopening Planning Workgroup of 31 members, including staff and parents to review the mission/vision of fashioning two instructional models:
Model A would be on an in-person schedule in the buildings with state-level restrictions; and
Model B, which would be an improved Remote Learning Model based off of recent student, parent and staff feedback results and on new state requirements for remote learning models.
“As a parent, you would choose between the two models as they will be offered simultaneously. However, please know that in the event that in-person schooling were to be closed due to concerns around COVID-19, all students would be placed on Instructional Model B,” said Hardesty.
Workgroup committees have been meeting to review feedback-survey results, current guidelines and requirements for reopening schools set by the state Health Department, the Governor, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and have been discussing this information as it relates to Oroville’s two instructional models, said Hardesty.
Committees are also discussing the regular laws and policies that govern public education and how these regulations can be met while developing two new and very distinct instructional models..
“There is always more behind what sometimes appears as a simple decision. While an idea may seem very doable or even practical, there can be state requirements that will not allow it. I say this, because as drafts of plans become available, we ask for individuals to reserve judgement, seek to understand, and above all communicate concerns directly with administration for an opportunity to address misunderstandings, and to avoid inaccurate rumors,” Hardesty said.
He went on to say the district’s goal is to have a tentative reopening draft by July 31.
“We are required to submit our plan to OSPI by Aug. 17, 2020. Our July 31 plan will be a working draft, which will require many adjustments. Like last year, things from the state will evolve rapidly, and our plan will be designed to adapt quickly when things do change,” adding that some state officials appear to be signaling a possible in-person school closure while other branches of government are signaling just the opposite.
While the two model plan is a response to the survey, Hardesty says it will be a harder goal to accomplish than creating one instructional model, such as only Remote Learning for all families.
“It is here I ask families to understand that this will be very complex and that we must work together as it will not be perfect. The complexity in this effort is extraordinary,” he said.
Hardesty said the district can get a better picture from families of what their attendance plans are for next year by responding to surveys as they receive them. He said they are still available by logging in to their Skyward Family Access account.
“You can well imagine it’s going to be difficult to staff two separate programs unless we understand what our students and families intend on coming back to. So if we open up an enrollment process and by and large the majority want in-school then we are going to have to staff with the majority in school. So it’s really important that parents take an active role in that enrollment process and pay attention when we are communicating those deadlines,” said Hardesty adding it was important for parents to get into their family access and update their contact information.