The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Schools update: New COVID numbers close SH classrooms to all students


August 19, 2020

Ward Christman

Of The New Era

Linn County has dropped out of eligibility for K-3 students to attend school in person.

That means no students, including those in Sweet Home, will start school in brick-and-mortar classrooms next week.

With 52 new coronavirus cases, the county now has more than the 30 positive case limit per 100,000 people, which triggered mandatory distance learning for kids of all ages.

In a letter to parents, guardians and students on Tuesday, Aug. 18, Sweet Home schools Supt. Tom Yahraes said, "For planning purposes for all, to stay in metric compliance, and out of an abundance of caution, we will move to distance learning only status for the first six weeks of school. Hopefully, we will see a decrease in the infection rate and have in-person learning available soon."

The state is requiring districts to move K-3 students to distance learning if the county has more than 30 new cases as a proportion of the population, or if the percentage of positive tests goes about 7.5 percent. The requirements for older students are even more strict. Students are required to stay home until there are three consecutive weeks that meet the specified metrics.

Online classes will look a lot different from the sudden switch that happened in March, thanks to a lot of planning over the summer, Yahraes says.

"We will be using a new learning platform called Canvas and we have purchased Chromebooks or tablets for our students," he wrote. "We will be providing canvas training for parents and students soon."

Schools will soon be providing daily and weekly learning schedules, registration dates, and dates for computer pick-up and distance learning orientation, he added. The orientation will include information about how to use Canvas on- and offline, for those without an internet provider.

"Given our new six-week check-in point and given favorable data, we will gradually and safely scale up to in-person learning for all students. We will continue to keep you informed and updated," he said.

In a letter to staff on Wednesday, Aug. 19, Yahraes said committing to six full weeks of distance learning is key for planning.

"This puts us around the time of our Oct. 9 in-service or thereafter to examine in-person learning options," he said.

The district receives new COVID data every Monday or Tuesday, so updates on whether the county has met the requirements for in-person learning can be expected at the beginning of each week.

"I have had hundreds of conversations since March 13th's "Stay at Home Orders" with staff, students, parents, community members, and leaders--all having a similar theme: wanting a return to normalcy. As we start the year, we will not wait for normalcy. It simply is not an option," Yahraes wrote.

"Our kindergartners to seniors are counting on the adults in their world to show them that setbacks are opportunities, that we can adapt; we get to learn something new; we can take on the challenges and find ways to thrive."


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