Siuslaw Elementary welcomes students back to campus

Students at Siuslaw Elementary School arrive to the school on Monday, prepared for the first day of on-campus hybrid learning. Kids maintained distance and sanitized throughout the school day. The district also implemented COVID-19 safety precautions, including wellness checks and staggered arrivals as people arrive on campus. ( Photos provided by Mike Harklerode/Siuslaw Elementary School)

Hybrid learning model maintains distance, safety precautions

Feb. 24, 2021 — Siuslaw Elementary School opened for hybrid instruction on Monday, with students on campus from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Principal Mike Harklerode talked about the process students undergo as they enter the building.

When students arrive on campus, their arrival times are staggered depending on family drop-off or the bus. Then, before they enter the school building, the kids stand on painted spots in the breezeway, all spaced 6 feet apart. Upon entering, all are sanitized.

“We’re using three different entry points, one each for K-1, 2-3 and 4-5,” Harklerode said. “All of this is done to create spacing as kids gather to enter.”

Next, the students are screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Each screening takes about 30 seconds per student. Only after they have been screened do they proceed to their classrooms.

The elementary hallways are marked with arrows, both to direct traffic and show six feet of distance, which must be maintained by all people.

Students remain in their classrooms throughout the day. However, for lunch, Harklerode and his planning team came up with a unique solution.

“The students have lunch in the hall,” Harklerode said. “The hall allows for more social time and keeps kids’ classrooms sanitary.”

The hallway can also be sanitized relatively easily.

In addition, the school allows for one recess period per day.

Most of these guidelines also keep students limited in their cohorts, which will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if it enters the school.

The end of the day also sees students maintaining six feet of distance as they prepare for pickup or the bus.

The work done to get to the elementary’s hybrid model will be used as Siuslaw middle and high schools prepare for their reopening in the coming weeks.

According to Siuslaw School District Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak, “The metrics are trending in the right direction. If next week’s report stays under 200 cases per 100,000 people, the district will announce the hybrid phase for on-campus instruction of students in grades 6-12.”

The district’s tentative date for the middle and high schools to start their on-campus phase-in will be March 8. The health metric report for the week of March 1 will confirm that.

Siuslaw is also working to offer the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test to any student or staff member that shows any symptoms of illness, starting March 1.

“This will help people determine what they may actually have, speed along any contact tracing, and reduce the time for people to isolate after a potential exposure,” Grzeskowiak said. “The test is effective at determining a COVID infection at five to seven days after exposure, even if the person is asymptomatic.”

On Feb. 19, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that more than 131,000 of Oregon’s students are now back on campus for at least some of their education. This comes after more than 10 months in comprehensive distance learning she initiated in March 2020.

“It is my expectation that more and more schools will bring students back for in-person learning over the coming weeks and I will continue to do all I can to help make this a reality for our kids,” the governor said.

Locally, a vast majority of Siuslaw School District’s staff have been vaccinated.

“A letter went out Friday night to parents with reminders on dates, testing consent protocol, and at-home health screenings to make sure that no one heads off to school if they are feeling ill,” Grzeskowiak said.

People can