This week, the Bethel school district in Eugene will hold online zoom meetings with community members about reopening for the fall. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the district is considering a hybrid learning model.
According to the Oregon Department of Education’s guidelines for reopening, schools must provide 35 square feet per person.
Bethel curriculum director Kee Zublin said they are proposing an online and in-person learning model to help meet the physical distancing requirements.
“If you look at the average classroom in our K-12 system, it's around 800 or so square feet,” said Zublin. “Once you subtract furniture and whatnot, it allows for about half the typical number of students to be present in the classroom. So we are proposing a hybrid model where we have students divided in half, and each half is present for a couple of days of the school week in-person.”
On days when students do not attend school in-person, they will participate in distance learning, and be taught by the same classroom teacher.
Zublin said this model is very similar to other districts across the state.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, someone’s decision to wear a mask has become controversial. As school districts prepare for the upcoming school year, that controversy may extend to schools.
As of now, districts are allowed to recommend that students wear masks, but Zublin said ODE has not made that a requirement.
“The guidance specifies that staff will be required to wear face masks or shields,” said Zublin. “In the guidance currently, students are not required [to wear a face mask]. But ultimately, it's clear that we cannot exclude them from school if they are unwilling or unable to wear a mask.”
When asked about staffing, Zublin said the district is planning to utilize their current staffing to support students in-person and online. But he said they are also making preparations in case teachers are absent.
“What all districts across the state are going to be faced with, potentially, is the need for temporary employees—substitute teachers and the like, in the event that some of our staff gets sick,” said Zublin.
Zublin said they have a group of teachers who are serving on an instructional committee to provide input for the learning and school reopening models. The district will host staff sessions, as well as provide pre-recorded versions of the information.
Bethel staff and parents will also be able to complete a survey on the district’s proposed reopening.
In August, Zublin said each school building will be required to create a school-specific variation of the district’s operational blueprint. Each school will then submit its blueprint to Lane County Public Health, the school board, post it on the district website, and send it to ODE.
Zublin said he wants Bethel families and teachers to know that they are doing everything they can to reopen safely.
“Their health and safety will be paramount in our minds,” said Zublin.
“And I do firmly believe and promise that regardless of what happens, the education of the students will continue,” said Zublin. “We will do our level best to make sure that we're meeting students' needs and working with them to continue to progress academically, while at the same time, ensuring a caring connection and regular contact with the teachers that know them and love them.”
Links to the Bethel school district reopening sessions are listed below, and can be found on their website.
Tuesday, July 14, 9:00-10:00 a.m. Zoom Link
Wednesday, July 15, 12:00p.m.-1:00 p.m. Zoom Link
Thursday, July 16, 4:30-5:30 p.m: Zoom Link (Spanish Language)
Thursday, July 16, 6:00-7:00 p.m. Zoom Link
Thursday, July 16, 7:30-8:30 a.m. Zoom Link (Spanish Language)