Jefferson County schools prepare to open

Districts eye mix of in-person, online learning

With the new school year fast approaching, Jefferson County’s four school districts are hustling to finalize plans that balance health and safety with high-quality instruction.

Port Townsend School District’s updated plan, released Monday, allows students at any grade level to participate in a blended model of two days of in-class instruction in 15-student cohorts with three days of remote learning, or to go fully remote. For high-schoolers, the blended model is limited to 125 students.

The first draft of the district’s plan, released in June, had elementary students attending school four days a week.

Families have until Wednesday to select fully remote learning or the blended model, or to enroll in OCEAN, the district’s alternative learning program. Students will be required to stick with that choice until at least Nov. 6.

“Part of the plan is how important the cohort is to protecting our students and staff from the virus, so we don’t want to do a lot of intermixing or changing,” Port Townsend Interim Superintendent Sandy Gessner-Crabtree said Monday during an online question-and-answer session with families.

The Port Townsend School Board has set a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. today to continue discussing its plan, and to hear updates from principals and committees. The board is set to vote on the plan Thursday, and school is slated to start Sept. 8.

With 15.7 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents as of Monday, Jefferson is among a handful of counties in the state considered low risk under recommendations issued Aug. 5 by Gov. Jay Inslee and Chris Reykdal, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Counties with fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period are considered low risk. They are encouraged to adopt a hybrid of in-person and distance learning for middle- and high-school students, and full-time, in-person learning for elementary students.

Chimacum schools

The Chimacum School Board was set to meet Wednesday night to discuss that district’s plan, which acting Superintendent David Engle said would likely be released Friday.

Chimacum kindergarten and elementary students would return to their classrooms, not grouped into cohorts, for two days a week with three days of remote learning, Engle said.

Seventh- , eighth- and possibly ninth-graders would see the same hybrid schedule but would be divided into cohorts, while students in 10th through 12th grades would see primarily remote learning.

“We want to begin the school year with as many students on campus as is feasible while preparing ourselves for the (likely) eventuality of a community-infection spike in late fall that triggers us into an all-online mode,” Engle said in an email.

Chimacum’s school year is set to start Sept. 8, while the first day for Quilcene and Brinnon students is set for Sept. 2.

Quilcene schools

Quilcene School District officials are looking at a five-step plan based on Jefferson County’s risk level as well as the risk level of Clallam and Kitsap counties. The plan ranges from distance learning for all grade levels at Step 1 to in-person instruction four days a week at Step 5.

The district is set to select one of those five steps Aug. 26, then reevaluate and make adjustments on a weekly basis. The current plan has been posted to the district’s website.

Based on the current risk level in each of the three counties, Quilcene appears likely to start the year at Step 3, which would have kindergartners through fifth-graders attending in-person classes three days a week and learning remotely on the other two days, while sixth- through 12th-graders would start the year entirely remote.

Brinnon

Brinnon, which serves students through eighth grade, has given families three options: return to school full-time, participate in a hybrid model of two days of in-class instruction and three days of remote learning or go fully remote.

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Jefferson County reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by email at [email protected].

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