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In-person bump looms across Jackson County schools

file photo Perry Dudley, Medford School District Head Custodian, and Ron Havniear, Medford School District Manager, separate desks at Griffin Creek Elementary School.
Central Point, Eagle Point, Phoenix-Talent schools to double in-person instruction next week

The Oregon Department of Education’s decision to halve from 6 feet to 3 the required distance between K-12 students will lead to a flood of local kids returning to classrooms for longer periods next week, particularly at secondary schools, which have offered only hybrid learning or limited in-person instruction so far this school year.

Three days after Medford School District announced its plans to greatly expand its reopening starting April 12 most of the other districts in Southern Oregon laid out similar plans Monday, with Central Point, Eagle Point and Phoenix-Talent all planning to at least double their in-person instruction opportunities at almost every school that’s currently operating in a hybrid model. The lone exception is Phoenix High School, which will continue to offer 2 ½ hours of in-person instruction to sophomores and seniors in the morning four days a week, and 2 ½ hours to freshmen and juniors in the afternoons four days a week when its fourth quarter begins April 13.

Also in the Phoenix-Talent School District, Talent Middle School and each of its three elementary schools – Orchard Hill Elementary, Talent Elementary and Phoenix Elementary – will expand to full-day in-person instruction four days a week starting the same day, which essentially doubles the amount of in-person instruction.

In Ashland, superintendent Samuel Bogdanove released a statement Friday that detailed the “key” updates to Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, and suggested changes to the district’s current hybrid model may be on the horizon. No details were revealed, however.

“Our administrators, supervisors, teachers and staff are working diligently to reshape opportunities for the remaining weeks of the school year because they know what it means for our students,” the message read. “I anticipate we will resolve the challenges above and move towards greater access to campus soon.”

Phoenix-Talent superintendent Brent Barry said the decision to keep the high school on what amounts to a four half-day-per-week schedule was made to help local families cope with the lingering impact of the Almeda fire.

“As we looked at it moving to fourth quarter, kids are used to this, families are used to this,” he said. “I will tell you, our juniors and seniors have work schedules and they need to provide that support for their families and they count on that. Especially with the fires and being displaced and rents being astronomical, we’ve had kids that have had to help families in that regard. So an all-day model would be more of a challenge for kids and families and we want to lesson that burden.”

Wednesdays will still be used as a day students can access additional support and teachers can plan, Barry added.

In Central Point, where most schools were offering a hybrid combination of in-person and remote instruction, every school will begin offering in-person instruction four days per week starting April 12, with start and end times depending on the school. Four of the district’s five elementary schools will run from 7:55 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., while Mae Richardson Elementary will go from 7:55 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

Scenic Middle School will run from 9:05 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. Hanby Middle School, which had been operating four days a week on alternating weeks, will run from 8 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.

Crater High School, which is divided into three schools, will run from 9:15 a.m. to 2:05 p.m., with students having the option of sticking with the two-days-per-week hybrid model.

“This all gets so complicated because we’re trying to make the rules fit in very different facilities with different capacities,” Central Point superintendent Samantha Steele said of the variance in schedules.

Wednesdays in Central Point will continue to be a Comprehensive Distance Learning day in order to meet state requirements.

In Eagle Point, where all three K-5 elementary schools are already engaged in full-day in-person, Eagle Point Middle School and White Mountain Middle School will go from its current hybrid format to full-day in-person five days a week starting April 12. The high school will do the same four days a week, but Wednesdays will serve as a catch-up day for those students currently struggling.

“We have a high number of students that are failing in those classes and we want to start providing the supports for them now,” Eagle Point superintendent Andy Kovach said. “(High school) students that don’t have Fs will then be working asynchronously during that Wednesday.”

Thursday will be an off day for Eagle Point students as staffers prepare rooms for the changes.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.