Hermiston back to school

Students in Harley Sloan’s first grade class at Sunset Elementary School in Hermiston participate in the first day of in-person instruction on Feb. 17, 2021.

Hermiston School District plans to bring more students back to the classroom with an expansion of hybrid learning to all elementary school students in early March.

In light of the "continued decline" of COVID-19 cases in the Hermiston ZIP code, the district reported in a news release, elementary schools are planning for second and third graders to return to the classroom part-time on March 1 and fourth and fifth graders on March 8.

Kindergarten and first grade students returned to the classroom on Wednesday, February 17.

Like the youngest grades, those that return in March will be split into two cohorts. Group A will attend onsite for three hours in the mornings, and Group B in the afternoon, with those not onsite learning online while the other group is in the classroom. On Fridays, students will learn from home all day with "full class comprehensive distance learning" via video in the afternoons.

In a statement, Superintendent Tricia Mooney said the district tracks the Hermiston ZIP code's COVID-19 cases and calculates a rolling two-week number each Thursday as it works on reopening classrooms.

While Gov. Kate Brown announced in December 2020 that the Oregon Health Authority's guidance on when schools can reopen was no longer mandatory, school districts reported they had learned that the liability protections granted by the state protecting schools from lawsuits over COVID-19 outbreaks would only be applicable if they followed those rules. For Hermiston School District, that means keeping cases in the city's ZIP code down to less than 88 cases reported over 14 days to offer hybrid learning at the elementary school level.

“Thank you for doing your part for our students and community to help bring our case counts down," Mooney said.

Hermiston School District now displays COVID-19 case counts relative to Oregon Health Authority's guidance on its website, where parents can track progress.

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