ELGIN — School is set to reopen in the Elgin School District late next month.
The Elgin School Board endorsed via consensus Monday night a plan Superintendent Dianne Greif proposed to have the district reopen for classes Aug. 31. The opening would mark the first time Elgin’s public schools have been open since mid-March when they and all of the state’s schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greif said another local spike in the number of COVID-19 cases could delay reopening.
“Hopefully our numbers will keep going down in the community,” Greif said.
Her plan calls for conducting classes at Stella Mayfield Elementary School in a traditional manner, though with precautions to protect against the virus.
Extensive sanitizing will be a part of the work day, students will eat meals in classrooms and students will not move to different sites throughout the building for classes.
“Everything will have to be controlled,” Greif said. “Children will not be running out of school when the bell rings.”
Elgin High School students will learn in cohorts. The district will determine the number of students in each group later. Cohort members will remain in their classroom while teachers come in and out during the school day.
“We will transition teachers instead of kids,” Greif said.
Greif said this would be more efficient than moving students from room to room for classes, which would mean more cleaning. That would not be the case each time a teacher enters a classroom.
A major advantage of keeping students in cohorts, Greif said, is if one gets COVID-19 only a relatively small number will have to be isolated.
The COVID-19 reopening issues the board discussed included school supplies. Greif and the board agreed it would be best for the school district to provide school supplies to students rather than have them bring their own to avoid contamination.
“This would be a good year not to give out school supply lists,” Greif said.
The superintendent said some parents may be pulling their children out of school because of the pandemic, and so far the parents of at least four children have indicated they will keep their children out of school. But Greif said the families intend to re-enroll their children in the district next year.
“They are not upset with the school district about anything,” Greif said.
Teachers nationwide have indicated they are worried about returning due to risks of catching the virus. Greif said the district’s teachers have not raised that concern, but if employees do and working from home is not an option, they have paid and unpaid leave choices. She said they also will be able will to submit a written request for paid leave available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Oregon Family Leave Act and Oregon Sick Leave.
The Elgin School District later will post a letter about its reopening plan on its website and seek advice from the Union Public Health Department regarding how best to meet social distancing standards. All Oregon school districts must submit their reopening plans to the Oregon Department of Education by Aug. 15.