Crook Co. School District plans return for K-3; older students to begin online

Crook County students in grades K-3 will return to the classroom in September while older students will start the school year fully online, the district announced Friday.

But the younger students could start online too if there’s a new uptick in COVID cases over the next few weeks.

“We’re obviously disappointed because we know that students learn better interacting in-person with teachers and classmates,” said Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. “We planned for a normal reopening September 8th, but these new health metrics from Salem have put a pause on that.”

The move comes a couple of days after Gov. Kate Brown announced new health metrics counties must meet before districts can reopen schools.

The new metrics require that each county in Oregon have 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people and a testing positivity rate at or below 5% for three straight weeks.

As of Friday, Crook County has 28.7 cases per 100,000 and an active case rate of 2.8%, Johnson said.

But Brown laid out an exception for students in grades K-3 if cases are below 30 per 100,000 and the county has a test positivity rate below 5%

Johnson says the plan is to move forward with K-3 students returning to buildings, but the district will closely monitor case numbers throughout August.

“We’d love to have our little ones in the classroom because in-person instruction is critical for future success at that age, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed case numbers trend down over the next few weeks,” said Dr. Johnson.

The district’s 968 kids in grades K-3 will be spread out over the three elementary schools, Barnes Butte, Crooked River and Steins Pillar.

So far, Crook County is the only district in Central Oregon that plans on having any students return to the classroom.

Redmond and Sisters announced Thursday they would begin the year online. Jefferson County made the same announcement earlier in the week.

Bend-La Pine, the region’s largest district, planned to discuss the new school year in a special school board meeting set for Friday afternoon.

Johnson said Crook County will monitor COVID data over the next few months and has set potential dates through the end of the year for a possible return to school.

Review Virus Data                                                        Potential School Reopening

August 15th                                                                     September 8th    (K-3 Only)

September 15th                                                             October 5th         (All Students)

October 15th                                                                   November 2nd    (All Students)

November 15th                                                              December 1st     (All Students)

The school district is retooling its distance learning options based on parent feedback from last spring.

Every day, teachers will provide interactive virtual instruction with both hands-on and digital curriculum, Johnson said.

Workbooks will also be included and the district plans to invest in training and support for teachers so students receive a more robust experience at home.

Crook County High School will continue to offer its regular menu of online and hybrid options.

In addition, CCSD is launching a new option called the Homeschool Partner Program for K-8 students.

Families who choose this option will educate their children from home while receiving resources, coordination, and support from teachers and the school district.

This includes the opportunity for homeschool students to take electives and other classes based on parent choice.

Former CCHS science teacher, Jonny Oelkers, will be the new K-8 Homeschool Coordinator and serve as the district’s advocate for families who choose that option.

Oelkers has experience in the classroom and currently homeschools his own children, so he brings a unique perspective to the program.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to build long-term and meaningful connections between the school district and homeschool families,” Oelkers said. “The advantage of this program over other online options is the support we can provide families by creating a more personalized experience.”

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