Feb. 6, 2021 — The Mapleton School District Board of Directors met for a work session on Feb. 3 with District Superintendent Jodi O’Mara and Mapleton High School Principal Brenda Moyer. The meeting detailed O’Mara’s plans to reopen the school district under guidance from Ready Schools, Safe Learners.
With the current plan, Mapleton Elementary School will be able to have on-site student instruction beginning this Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Districts across the state will be able to reopen schools to students depending on COVID-19 case metrics in their county. According to Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, counties must have a positive COVID-19 case rate between 200 and 350 people per 100,000 to allow for an elementary on-site and hybrid transition.
For the two weeks ending Jan. 30, Lane County had a positive case rate of 222.5, which is below the 283.5 rate from the previous period.
“That's a significant drop,” O’Mara said. “It's nice to see that the metrics are trending down.”
In addition, it means that Mapleton can bring students back to campus.
“The county case rate puts us in the elementary on-site and hybrid transition model. What that means is, we prioritize careful phasing in of on-site or hybrid for elementary students, starting with younger students and adding additional grades over time,” O’Mara said.
The district has been teaching students in comprehensive distance learning (CDL) since last March. At the end of 2020, it began to bring students to campus for short periods of time under limited in-person instruction (LIPI). Now, a majority of the students will be able to attend in-person by the end of next month, as long as county metrics allow.
For the remainder of the school year, Mapleton will offer four instructional models. Families will be able to choose if students return to campus or remain in CDL.
Mapleton reached out with these options to kindergarten through 12th-grade families through a survey. Pre-school families will be contacted in a couple weeks.
“We have a great idea of how many students want to remain in which model,” O’Mara said.
The first model is for grades K-6, which is an on-site/hybrid learning model. Students will be on campus two days a week, attending a full school day, and work virtually from home the other two days.
“All along, the elementary staff has known that it's going to have to be every other day, because we're blended classrooms,” O’Mara said. “That virtual time at home looks just like it does now when they're at home with their Chromebook, Clever and Seesaw. There will also be projects that the teacher sends home.”
Secondly, on-site learning will be offered to all preschool students. Students will be on campus two days a week for a shortened school day. Preschool students who do not choose on-site learning will still receive weekly learning kits.
The third model is on-site learning four days a week for all seventh to 12th-grade students.
“That model is completely on-site,” O’Mara said. “All students would be on campus Monday through Thursday attending a full school day.”
The final method is CDL for all K-12 students who choose to remain in virtual learning.
Students will not be able to change between models.
School Board Director Mary Ellen Mansfield clarified, “So, you're offering all four models, and a family can choose one.”
O’Mara answered, “We’re really offering two (per grade level), which is on-site or CDL. But the elementary and the middle/high looks different, and then preschool looks different as well. So really, there's two models, but there's differences between them.”
The survey allowed families to weigh in on their options.
“I will tell you, 91 percent of our elementary students are coming on-site, with only six in CDL,” O’Mara said. “Right now, 81 percent of our middle school/high school students are coming on-site, with about 12 in CDL.”
Final comments from families were expected by Friday.
To bring students back to campus, school districts have clear rules about safety, including mask wearing, physical distance, sanitation, transportation and more. A big factor is cohorts, and limiting the people students and staff interact with.
Mapleton is able to split most of its students into grade-level cohorts.
“This means they're self-contained,” O’Mara said.
Kindergarten will be split into two sections due to the class size. First through eighth grades will all have separate cohorts, but ninth and 10th will be together, as will 11th and 12th.
“They mix classes so much for the high school schedule, so we're putting them in one cohort,” O’Mara said. “They will be limited in how much contact they actually have with each other depending on their schedules.”
They will also have separate home rooms.
Cohorts also limit the number of staff who interact with students, which is important for contact tracing. For seventh and eighth grades, there will be two teachers assigned to just those grades.
“We wanted to maintain the small cohort size, first and foremost, to ensure all the safety protocols are followed, but also to ensure student management. We need to be able to manage our students within those safety protocols provide the ability to maintain six feet distance as much as feasible, while still being able to teach and support our learners to be able to provide PE every day for on-site learners,” O’Mara said.
In the hybrid model for grades K-6, on the days when kids are in virtual learning twice a week, they will use similar programs they used under CDL.
For the kids exclusively in CDL, “There’s no more live class time with your teacher, but there is one hour of virtual support,” O’Mara said.
Currently, CDL students check in with their educational assistant once a day — “so it will be the same,” O’Mara added.
At the high school level, kids will attend school every day on a full seven-period schedule, from 8:12 a.m. to 3:47 p.m. It’s the same schedule as a regular school day pre-COVID-19.
Each cohort will be assigned a homeroom classroom, where they will attend classes.
“We recognize some of their schedules mean that they have to go into a different classroom, but we have enough classrooms that they won't have to intermix,” O’Mara said.
In addition, several classes will continue to be taught virtually at the middle/high school level, such as language arts, art and a college credit class. Students will be in campus or at home, but the teacher will present over Zoom. On-site students will have an educational aide in the classroom.
“The CDL kids will be accessing those and our on-site kids will be accessing those,” O’Mara said. “That is to provide some support for staff members who prefer to remain in CDL as well.”
Students who choose CDL will be able to do most of their learning asynchronously, at their own pace. The district is expanding its Edgenuity programming for all grade levels, as well as its support times for students to check in. Students will also log into virtual Storytime and take virtual art classes with their on-site classmates.
“There’s still a connection with teachers and students on campus, but their core education is done through Edgenuity,” O’Mara said.
The district will continue to provide food drop-offs to CDL students twice a week. On-campus kids will also get breakfast, lunch and snacks, along with food for the days they are in virtual learning.
Most importantly, Mapleton plans to begin on-site learning beginning Feb. 10 for the fifth-grade cohort. At that time, kindergarten through fourth grade LIPI ends. On Thursday, the sixth-grade cohort begins.
If the metrics continue to allow the district to expand, on-site learning for the third-grade cohort will begin Feb. 17, followed by the fourth-grade cohort on Feb. 18. The next week could see kindergarten through second grade on campus.
Under the current plan, and if metrics allow, the 11th and 12th-grade cohort could arrive on campus on Wednesday, March 3, followed the next week by the ninth- and 10th-grade cohort on March 10 and the seventh-grade cohort and eighth-grade cohort on March 15.
“Rather than wait a week and only have seventh and eighth graders on campus for two days, we decided to go ahead and try and bring them in on the 15th because otherwise, they're there for only two days and then it's spring break,” O’Mara said. “We wanted to give them a full week on campus.”
Preschool families will be contacted beginning Feb. 22 about their on-site learning preferences. A target date to begin on-site preschool is March 31.
The district chose to begin bringing fifth and sixth grades to campus first since most of them have been able to attend through LIPI.
“They know some of the expectations that we've already got in place,” O’Mara said. “We felt that if we brought the older elementary kiddos on with the safety protocols and procedures in place, … they would be more able to adapt to the changes in the schedule. They've been in school for so long that they know how this works, and then trickling changes down from there.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also instructed districts to begin reopening schools at the elementary level.
Starting with one grade at a time allows school districts the chance to finalize their transportation plans.
“It actually will work,” O’Mara said of Mapleton’s transportation capabilities. “I went through all the high school kids, middle school kids and elementary kids, to see how they would fit.”
The district will have four bus routes: an elementary route, an in-town route, an elementary Deadwood route and a middle/high school Deadwood route.
“We're specifically keeping elementary and middle/high school completely separate, except for the PE teacher, and PE will be outside,” O’Mara said. “We did that, especially for transportation, on purpose. It's a lot easier to contact trace that way.”
Mapleton also has separate staff delivering meals to district families. They are able to use the district’s van for this.
The entire district met for a staff meeting in January to get everyone on the same page. It included classified staff, bus drivers and staff for both the elementary and the middle/high school.
“They actually are all very supportive, and this was the structure they came up with,” O’Mara said. “They had a lot of say in it on everything from cohorting, keeping the seventh- and eighth-graders separate and making sure that those teachers are separate from the rest, deciding who those were. It's just been a very collaborative process, I feel.”
Staff has also been part of the vaccination process, especially since the state’s supply isn’t enough to vaccinate all teachers before students come back to campus.
“Last week, we had six vaccinated. Lane County Public Health gets a certain amount allotted to them for vaccines. Last week, it was 1,700. This week, it's 3,500. However, the 3,500 this week are designated for private schools and early childhood. And so, our allotment was still 1,700 for public K-12,” O’Mara said.
Mapleton’s allotment is six a week, with essential office staff and teachers starting off.
“They received their vaccines first, and then, based on the priority list, there were six vaccinated last week, we have six going in this week and we'll have six going in next week,” O’Mara said.
If the vaccines continue to roll out at this rate, Mapleton staff should all have their first round of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of February.
“Some staff, and I support this 100 percent, really want to have their first vaccine before kids come into classrooms. So, we're working to ensure that that happens, that the vaccine is offered and available to staff before we put kids in their classrooms,” O’Mara said.
Mapleton School Board Chair Mizu Burruss said, “It's pretty impressive. You’ve had to break everything apart and put it back together again in a different way. This plan seems particularly speedy and with a lot of moving parts. It’s really exciting, and I’m excited for kids and staff.”
“And I'm excited for the parents,” O’Mara added. “I really am.”
The district is sending out additional correspondence to families this week. This will include the reopening protocols, information on if cases begin to rise again, sanitation schedules and more.
The rest of the work session involved further questions and ideas from the Mapleton School Board members in attendance.
Director Andrea Milbrett said, “It's a lot of Tetris playing and scheduling. I know personally firsthand, you guys are always good about making sure everyone is heard and listened to as much as they can be. … Things are going to come up, it is how it is, but you'll work it out.”
O’Mara thanked the board for their input, and acknowledged the hard work done by staff, the board and the community to get to this stage.
Mansfield said, “We appreciate what you guys are doing.”
It’s all about getting Mapleton’s kids the best education possible.
“I think staff would be thrilled if we had kids on campus tomorrow,” O’Mara said. “But I actually got a couple little happy dances when I told them that when middle school/high school students come on campus, everyone can be on campus. We weren't sure that that was going to work until the new guidance came out. And we're able to make it work. So that really made a lot of high school/middle school teachers happy.”
The Mapleton School District Board of Directors will meet next on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. The meeting can be streamed via YouTube. For more information, visit www.mapleton.k12.or.us.