After gathering community input, the Winston-Dillard School District decided not to change anything about its current education model during Wednesday’s school board meeting.
All schools in the district will remain open to in-person, on-site learning amid rising COVID-19 cases, but families will have the option to participate in distance learning.
“At the end of the day, being responsible for our own actions and allowing the public to make their own decisions whether they want to put kids in our school district should be the voice of this board, in my opinion,” board member Brian West said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s up to the parents. When the parents all go to (Comprehensive Distance Learning) on their own, then we really hear the voices of the public at that point. And in my personal opinion, that’s when it’s easy for me to say I think is ready for CDL.”
The school district can stay open for in-person learning until Jan. 4 under a Safe Harbor Clause from the Oregon Department of Education, since schools in the district were already educating students under the previous guidance.
Sutherlin and South Umpqua school districts will also remain open under the Safe Harbor Clause. Those school districts made the decision without gathering public input.
A survey by the district found that about 55% of people wanted to continue in-person learning and about 45% wanted to have some sort of distance learning. Students and families can opt to enroll in distance learning through the school district if they do not feel safe inside the classroom, teachers do not have that option.
Norma Frost, the representative for the teacher’s union, said in a survey of the teaching staff 26 wanted to go to distance learning and 51 wanted to continue teaching in-person. However, there was a big difference between elementary and secondary school teachers. At the elementary school, 35 teachers chose in-person and five chose distance learning, while 21 secondary school teachers wanted to go to distance learning and 16 wanted to continue in person.
“Every staff member that I have voted to stay. We’re more than willing to, ready to and anxious to meet the needs of those that choose not to be at the school, but by far our families and staff would like to be able to choose to stay,” said Lookingglass Elementary School Principal Oriole Inkster.
Superintendent Kevin Miller posted an email dated Nov. 16 from Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer online. In the email Dannenhoffer wrote, “The disease is very active in the entire county, now even affecting previously unaffected areas such as Scottsburg and Tiller. There were 20 in the hospital yesterday and the trajectory is not favorable. Public health would support any reasonable plan. At this time, either staying open with your stringent safeguards or ‘pausing’ until after Thanksgiving would be reasonable. Winston has a bunch of cases.”
Board member Curt Stookey was the only school board member who said he wanted to go back to distance learning.
“They suggested we shouldn’t (transition to Comprehensive Distance Learning), Dannenhoffer suggested we should. I haven’t changed my view on it: I think we ought to be down,” he said, adding that there are too many unknowns and uncertainties with the virus.
The school board only discussed the reopening but took no action as schools were already open and no change was needed.
In other board news:
The school board received an update on the construction project at Douglas High School and made a few small changes.
- David Van Dermark said just over $7,500 had been raised to move the mural at Douglas High School to a new location on campus.
- WDSD is investing more than $9,000 on protective cases for Chromebooks.
- Winston-Dillard School District will invest in HVAC ionizers to improve the air quality at the school.