Returning students to our classrooms

Dear Umatilla Families,

When we began distance learning, I hoped it would be a brief experience. While I'm proud of the work students, staff and families have done to make distance learning the best it can be, it is not our ideal learning environment.  We are all facing the challenges of wanting school to return to normal while also wanting to be certain students and staff are safe and healthy. Today, Governor Brown released new metrics for Oregon schools and while the requirements have been reduced, Umatilla County is still not meeting the requirements for in-person learning.

The new metrics require a test positivity rate of 5% of less for our County over a two week period to bring students in for hybrid instruction. The Umatilla County average for the past two weeks as of October 24th was 12.95%. To return to our hybrid model, we need to have 50 cases/100,000 or less to return K-12 and 100/100,000 cases or less to return  K-5. We have roughly 76,000 people in Umatilla County so our adjusted metrics over two weeks are roughly 38 new cases or less for K-12 and 76 or less for K-5. Our two week numbers per 100,000 for the previous two weeks (as of October 24th) were 220.5. This means we must work together as a County to get students back in schools. 

The best strategies we have for reducing spread of COVID-19 are: frequent handwashing, mask wearing and social distancing. It is also crucial that those with symptoms get tested and follow quarantine rules. 

Until we are able to meet the County metrics for hybrid learning, we are focused on meeting our community metrics for Limited In Person Instruction (LIPI). During LIPI, we may bring in small groups of students for additional learning supports for no more than two hours per day. LIPI does not replace online instruction, but it is a way for students to receive greater support from their teachers. We will begin registering for LIPI next week (beginning November 2nd). Once we know how many people would like to participate, we will finalize our plans and take them to the School Board for approval. We must go 14 days with no new cases of COVID-19 in staff or students. Our last known staff or student case was October 14th. We will continue to monitor staff and student numbers carefully so we may begin to get students back in school through LIPI. We are hopeful for a December 1st start date but may need to adjust the date based on cases. 

Thank you for your dedication to students. Through our various home visits, check-ins, and phone calls, we have seen the tremendous work being done by family and community members to support students during online learning. I look forward to the day when we are back in school and cheering for our students together as a community. Until then, I'm thankful for the myriad of ways our community cheers for our children together at a distance.

Heidi Sipe

Superintendent

PS: If you're looking for a quick reference guide to this information, please utilize this resource. It's a quick summary of our various options and plans.