HERMISTON — The Hermiston School District announced on Thursday, July 23, in a press release that it plans to begin the school year with distance learning instructional classes only.

The decision comes following the guidance of the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority. Superintendent of Public Instruction Colt Gill and Director of the Oregon Health Authority Patrick Allen stated in a letter that guidelines and protocols will be set in place within the coming weeks to decide if and when it is safe to return to on-site or hybrid instruction.

“In the coming weeks, we will release a set of guideposts, protocols, and public health indicators that will help determine the best instructional model for a given (ZIP) code or county,” stated the letter.

In June, state guidance issued three possible instruction methods — on-site, hybrid and distance learning — for the 2020-21 school year, and that schools should be prepared to use whichever model depending on the progression of COVID-19.

“With heightened concern related to the COVID-19 virus and indoor gatherings, Hermiston School District will begin the year with a comprehensive distance learning model, with the intent of moving to a hybrid model when it is safe to return students to the classroom,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tricia Mooney via a July 23 press release.

Mooney stated it is the district’s goal to have students return to face-to-face instruction as soon as possible, if it can be done safely.

The board of education will meet on Monday, July 27, to discuss what the distant learning instruction will look like. Additional details will be released in the coming weeks.

Gov. Kate Brown also announced on July 23 a draft guidance for early learning and child care programs, which will be applied statewide once it is finalized on Friday, Aug 14.

The draft includes protocols for daily health checks, group sizes, Personal Protective Equipment for children and adults, daily activities, cleaning and response protocols for possible and confirmed COVID-19 cases. The full draft can be viewed here.

The guidance is open for public comment through Sunday, July 26, prior to finalization.

“Much like K-12 schools, we know that our early childhood programs won’t look the same this fall. But, one thing is clear: We know that kids need safe, caring, quality environments while their parents are at work,” stated Gov. Kate Brown in a July 23 press release.

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