Hermiston Back to School

Laptops charge in a classroom at Armand Larive Middle School in Hermiston on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The Hermiston School District will begin the year with distance learning.

After announcing an online-only start to the 2020-21 school year, Hermiston School District is encouraging parents to keep their child with the district.

Students have two options with HSD if they return in the fall. In the first option, they can sign up for temporary distance learning, where they will be assigned teachers who would normally be teaching them in an in-person classroom to work with online, with the hope that eventually they will be able to transition into that teacher’s classroom in person.

In option two, for families that decide they would prefer to keep their student home the entire year even if the district is allowed to return students to the classroom, students can register for Hermiston Online!, the district’s virtual academy that it has been running since before the pandemic began.

Hermiston Superintendent Tricia Mooney told the school board on Monday, Aug. 10, that kindergarten registration is down from previous years, likely due to the pandemic.

However, the district is urging parents who would like to go with an online-only school year to register for Hermiston Online! instead of a charter school or other online option not sponsored by the district, so that those students can still have access to Hermiston School District’s resources, including counselors, financial aid, extracurricular activities, special education, school meals, English Language Learner programs, libraries and school nurses.

During an update to the Hermiston City Council after the school board meeting on Aug. 10, Mooney said wherever people are on the political spectrum or what their life situation is, the community should be focused on doing what needs to be done to return students to the classroom safely.

“We know that our economy doesn’t fully return until our kids are back in school,” she said. “It is a huge impact on families across the community not being able to have our kids have face-to-face instruction, so it’s critical we all do whatever it is we need to do, step up and do our part, to get our kids back.”

The Oregon Department of Education’s current guidelines are that a school of more than 100 students can only open if the county where the school is located has less than 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, three weeks in a row, and has a less than 5% rate of COVID-19 tests coming back positive for three weeks in a row.

For the week of Aug. 2-8, Umatilla County had 361 new cases per 100,000 and a 20% test positivity rate.

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