Port Townsend School District releases first draft of reopening plan

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend School District’s preliminary reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year would have students split their time in instruction between in-class and remote teaching.

District officials presented the plan to families on June 25, noting that it will be updated and revised throughout the summer based on state and local directives as well as developments regarding COVID-19. A survey has been sent to families.

The completed plan is tentatively set to be released Aug. 17 and considered for approval by the school board on Aug. 20 allowing for school to begin Sept. 8.

Elsewhere in Jefferson County, Chimacum School District officials expect to release a draft plan on Monday, Quilcene school officials plan to have a draft plan ready by July 15 and the Brinnon School Superintendent Patrica Beathard said that officials are preparing for a full reopening in the fall if the virus permits it and will offer choices for families who prefer a more home-based schedule.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) told districts on June 11 to begin to plan the reopening of their schools.

On June 16, the Port Townsend School District formed a steering committee made up of teachers, staff, parents, students and community members to develop ideas on how to reopen schools safely.

Five priorities were identified: health, equity, face-to-face instruction, communication, and academic progress.

“As things continue to evolve, we know that there will be different forks in the road to take,” said Sarah Rubenstein, district spokesperson.

The matrix presented to district families through a Zoom slide show, which can also be found on YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYHd-0Gi7mg&feature=youtu.be] shows that schools must meet local and state directives for social distancing.

The most likely scenario is a combination of in-person and distance learning.

“Right now, our best plan for Salish Elementary is that our elementary students will be receiving in-person face-to-face instruction four or five days a week, with social distancing and other layers of health precautions,” Rubenstein said.

Lisa Condran Salish Elementary School principal, said: “As you know we feel it’s really, really important for our youngest students to get back to school because the foundation of learning is in the youngest years of the elementary school.

“We’ve heard from our families, students, and our staff that a lot of our students really, really struggled without being able to go to school.”

Rubenstein said that both middle and high schools will provide blended learning opportunities.

“Students will have in-person instruction two days a week with social distancing and health precautions and then there will be three days a week of high-quality distance learning.”

Some families may choose to keep their students home for distance learning, officials said.

Blue Heron Middle School and Port Townsend High School will function on a cohort system when students return to class for two days a week.

“We are going to go with an A/B cohort rotation. So an A cohort would meet in person on Mondays and Thursdays and cohort B would be meeting on Tuesdays and Fridays. The three days a week asynchronous learning would still continue to happen at home, then on Wednesday there would be time for extra support for students that need that time,” said Theresa Campbell, Blue Heron Middle School principal.

These cohorts would be in one classroom, including during lunch, through the majority of the day.

Schools will reopen with new requirements for students and staff .

All students and staff will be required to wear masks unless they have underlying medical conditions or other needs that prevent them from doing so.

“At the high school, masks and social distancing will be extremely important because we are going to run a six-period day for our students so that they will be moving throughout the school during the day and in their various classes,” said Carrie Ehrhardt, Port Townsend High School principal.

All students and staff will be checked for symptoms before they enter school each day. Students or staff members who develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at school will be separated from others and asked to keep masks on until they can be sent home. Each school will have a room designated for separating students and staff if they develop symptoms. These rooms, along with all rooms in the schools will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized every day.

Students and staff also will be required to wash their hands when they arrive, before meals, and after spending time outside. Those who contract COVID-19 must have been in recovery for a least three days or 72 hours before they can return to school.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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