The skies over Jo Lane Middle School offered only a hint of light Monday morning when Denise Martin began her day.
Illuminated by only vehicle headlights and the lighted school sign behind her, Martin was among several staff members positioned outside the school in a coordinated effort to move students safely into school while managing the flow of traffic from a steady stream of vehicles and yellow school buses.
In a scene played out throughout secondary schools in Roseburg, Monday marked the return to the classroom for students in grades 6-12. The district announced the decision to begin hybrid learning Monday, Jan. 25, after COVID-19 case rates dropped to 196 per 100,000 people at the time, which is within the state’s advisory guidelines for hybrid learning.
Elementary schools in Roseburg resumed on-site learning one week earlier.
Under the hybrid learning model, students in grades 6-12 will attend school on site two days a week and learn from home for two days a week. Families will have a choice between hybrid learning or continuing remote learning.
Jo Lane Principal Nicki Opp and Roseburg High School Principal Jill Weber said students are separated into smaller groups called cohorts, so that fewer students interact with each other during the day.
As part of the return to on-site learning, staff members were required to observe safety protocols to guard against COVID-19. For students at Jo Lane Middle School, that included a stop at the entrance of the school where they were instructed to use one of two hand sanitizer dispensers in place.
Similar safety protocols were in place at other secondary schools, including Roseburg High School.
RHS and Jo Lane students are attending four classes rather than seven this semester, but will still be on track to earn full credit by the end of the year.
Opp said about 120 Jo Lane students are still learning at home. With kids who are attending in-person now two days a week, about 250 kids, less than half the students, are on campus each day.
She said there was a lot of angst among teachers ahead of time about safety precautions, but after seeing how the first day went with a smaller group of kids they were feeling pretty good about it.
“When kids actually physically walked in the door we realized, ‘Hey, we can manage this.’ This is doable, and it was really a very smooth day,” she said.
It was fun for kids to discover things like how tall or short their new teachers were, Opp said. That’s something you just don’t pick up over Zoom, she said.
“Kids are excited to be here and we were glad to see them, that’s for sure,” she said.
Some RHS students have also chosen to continue learning at home, but Weber said most were enthusiastic about returning Monday.
“It was a great day,” she said just after classes let out Monday. “It felt so good to have students back in the classrooms.”
She said for students it “felt like a first day of school in February.”
Weber said many students told her they learn much better in person.