School board approves resolution that would bring students back full-time

The Klamath County School District Board of Directors is asking the state to adjust reopening metrics to allow all county students the option of returning to full-time, in-person instruction on April 5.

The school board approved a resolution today (March 4) urging the state to adjust the space-per-student requirement in the Oregon Department of Education’s Ready Schools Safe Learners Guidance from 35-square-feet to 9-square-feet, increasing the number of students allowed in classrooms. This change would enable the district to bring back all students full-time instead of part-time under its hybrid models, which offer in-person instruction two days a week and distance learning at home the other three days.

All other COVID-19 safety and health protocols – masks, sanitizing, contact tracing, and quarantining cohorts as needed – would remain in place. The district will continue to offer a 100 percent online school option for families who do not want their students to return to classrooms.

“Despite the efforts of our teachers, who are doing a phenomenal job, many of our students are struggling and their education and mental health is suffering,” said Steve Lowell, chair of the KCSD Board of Directors. “We are concerned prolonged distance learning may impede the ability of our students to master the skills they need to be successful.”

The resolution asks the state to adjust requirements for cohort and social distancing for schools in counties where:

  • school employees had the opportunity to complete the vaccination protocols;
  • safeguards of sanitizing, face-masks, and physical distancing of 9 square feet are strictly enforced;
  • there is no confirmed spread within the school;
  • the local public health authority has approved the school’s blueprint.

The school board is sending the resolution, which includes a letter of support from Jennifer Little, director of Klamath County Public Health, to Gov. Kate Brown, the Oregon Department of Education, and the Oregon Health Authority.

In her letter, Little backs efforts to return students to full-time, in-person learning, and supports the district’s proposal to decrease physical distancing requirements to allow more students to attend class.

“Schools are where communities turn for consistent, nurturing environments for children,” she wrote, citing concerns about distance learning on mental and behavioral health for local youth. “A proactive return to campus will resonate throughout the lifetimes of students …”

The timing of the resolution follows the opportunity for all school staff to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The resolution also cites the district’s success in bringing back K-3 and all rural students last fall for in-person instruction with limited need to quarantine cohorts.

“Providing a quality education in a safe, nurturing learning environment is my highest priority,” said KCSD Superintendent Glen Szymoniak. “This proposal will continue to do that while providing students with the in-person learning needed for future success.”

Szymoniak presented the resolution to the board for review and approval. This is the fourth time since September that Szymoniak has petitioned the state for changes that would help the district educate students. In late October, he proposed a new county allowance metric based on population density to allow 4-12th graders to return to classrooms. In early December, he made a successful bid to adjust metrics and allow local districts and public health officials to determine when students could safely return to school. Later that month, he wrote state lawmakers, advocating for COVID-19 liability coverage for school districts