Dear Sherwood Families, Staff, and Community,
As you likely know, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Oregon. Since closing our schools in March, it has been our greatest hope to bring students and staff back together in our buildings. The health and safety of our students and staff are of the utmost importance, and we have carefully attended to state guidance, every step of the way.
Earlier today, Governor Kate Brown, OHA and ODE released data-based metrics to clarify the ability for school districts to safely return to face-to-face instruction. This information has significant implications for our district, as well as districts throughout Oregon. Currently, case rates exceed the limits set forth by the governor for in-person instruction, and although there are separate, more lenient metrics for allowing K-3 instruction, case rates do not meet those metrics either.
Given these new requirements, the Sherwood School District will commence the 2020-21 school year by implementing a Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) program for all students grades K-12. While we anticipate this model could be in place for at least the first nine weeks of the term, as we are seeing in the plans of our neighboring districts, we will continue to monitor reopening metrics to determine when students can safely return to our buildings. This will include close monitoring of Washington County case rates and their impact on the exception for grades K-3.
We know from stakeholder feedback that some families have concerns about the effectiveness of distance learning, based on their experiences this past spring. Since closing our schools in March of this year, our staff have worked diligently to adapt to the realities of providing education to our students during a global pandemic. Moving rapidly into a distance learning environment last spring posed significant challenges, as we had little time to prepare and even less time to provide much needed professional development for staff.
With this afternoon’s release of the state’s reopening metrics, we once again face that challenge — yet with the gift of some additional time, we are prepared to implement changes to improve this model. Some planned changes, based on the feedback we have received and updated guidance from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), include adding real-time, live lessons on a daily basis, providing regular opportunities for peer interaction, addressing social/emotional and mental health needs, improving assessment and feedback practices — and many more! And perhaps most important of all, we will have adequate time to provide professional development to staff, as well as time for staff to prepare to implement our revamped CDL Model. With these important changes, we believe we can truly transform the way instruction is delivered in a virtual setting.
As you may know, our staff have spent the last few months exploring variations of hybrid models to provide our students with at least some amount of in-person learning, and — despite our move to the CDL Model — we know that this work will still be needed in the future when schools do reopen. However, today’s announcement provides us with a clear path forward in the short term, and it is essential at this time that we switch our focus and resources towards planning for this new mandate.
In the weeks ahead, our planning teams will complete their detailed plans for CDL, and we will share that information with you — as well as ask for your input! Please stay tuned for additional communication, as well as opportunities to share your thoughts, questions, and concerns with our teams. Prior to August 12, we will be sharing information about our CDL model with our families and staff, to gather input on the development of those model. On August 12 and 26, we will meet with our Board of Directors to share an updated version of the CDL Model. As we move forward in alignment with state requirements, we are also committing to weekly updates to provide timely information as we move closer to the start of the school year.
These past few months have been a time of uncertainty for all of us, and I am thankful for your patience and grace during this time. While we feel great disappointment that our 2020-21 school year will not start with our students and staff back in the classrooms — including in our new high school and completed Transformation schools — today’s announcement allows us to move forward with a full focus on providing our students with safe, high quality instruction this fall.