The Forest Grove School District central office. Photo: Chas Hundley

FOREST GROVE - The Forest Grove School District is working on plans that will address how the district will hold classes for students in the coming academic year.

In a Friday, July 17 letter to district families, FGSD superintendent Dave Parker noted that the hundreds of details being worked into the tentative plans are designed to be flexible in order to accommodate changing restrictions and guidelines from the Oregon Department of Education and Governor Kate Brown. 

The next set of updates to the Oregon Department of Education’s “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance is expected to arrive Tuesday, July 21.

“With the rapidly changing landscape surrounding the pandemic, the district is striving to create an education model that will facilitate the possibility of having to move in and out of an in-person experience -- depending on the severity of the pandemic. Currently, infections rates are rising, which may cause the Governor to adjust restrictions for opening schools,” said Parker. 

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Parker noted that the plan so far — created by a committee of staff members — is to have two options for families in the district.

The first option, a “Hybrid Model” will have students alternate days in which they are physically present in schools. Half of students in a class will be placed into a cohort and go to a school on an ‘A’ day (Monday and Tuesday) or a ‘B’ day schedule (Thursday and Friday). The rest of the time, they will be learning online, except for Wednesday, which, according to the district, will be a time for students to do homework and independent practice, and give teachers a day for lesson preparation and professional development around online teaching. 

Some additional guidance for students with differing needs such as students with disabilities, ESL learners, or those with additional educational needs may also have opportunities for additional in-person learning. 

Virtual lessons will be recorded and accessible in an online classroom as well for those families who need more flexibility in this model.

Unlike this spring’s pass/fail grading system, student’s will be back to receiving grades, and will have regular assessment, and remain enrolled in their current schools. 

The second option, “Comprehensive Distance Learning,” will be almost entirely online. 

“We know that some families will not be comfortable sending their students back to school,” said Parker. This option is designed to meet students who will not return to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will be able to interact with classroom sessions in real-time, with teachers, through the use of technology, able to “see” the students, their desktops, answer questions, and assign and grade work, according to Parker. Like their counterparts opting for the hybrid model, these students will receive grades, have regular assessment, and remain enrolled in their current schools.

Sanitation of schools, safely busing students to and from school, meal planning, and addressing special education and childcare options are all among the details the district is grappling with, according to Parker, who struck an optimistic tone in the letter. 

“We are excited about the learning solutions that we have identified to meet the needs of individual students, regardless of family circumstances,” Parker wrote. 

A survey designed to gather information on which options families would be most likely to take was also released, and will be used to assess the general community opinion between the two learning options. 

“Our top priority is the safety of our students and staff while providing the best educational experience possible. Throughout this planning process, we have kept these critical priorities at the forefront. We know these times are difficult and unsure. We will continue to communicate regularly with you to keep you informed of our progress,” said Parker. 

Read the full letter here.