Reopening of Orting Schools Task Force Meeting Summary
October 20, 2020
The Task Force reconvened last night to continue the planning and discussion around the reopening of Orting Schools. Lori Karnes of the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) shared the most recent trend data showing a significant spike in positive COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. Data trends show an increase in the past two weeks of 73.9 cases (per 100K in 14 days) to the present metric of 93.70 cases (per 100K in 14 days) as of 10/20/2020 based on a six-day data lag. Lori explained this data and marked an increase in the past two weeks of observation, as mentioned by Dr. Chen in his letter to school districts on 10/6/2020 in COVID-19 cases moves us back into the 'High Level' of the K-12 Decision Tree. In the 'High Level' of risk as outlined in the K-12 decision tree, remote instruction is recommended and advised for all public education institutions except for small groups of less than 5 for our highest impacted learners. This recommendation is the same recommendation that led to statewide school closures in March and followed in August, which led to the start of remote instruction for school districts throughout the state for the 2020-2021 School Year. Lori expressed that since we have not moved into a 'Moderate Phase' of the K-12 Decision Tree due to our cautious approach, we will not need to return to remote instruction as we have not transitioned out of it. Lori shared that based on the TPCHD data, we will likely see the third wave in positive COVID-19 cases. Further, Lori anticipates cases to rise as we enter the fall season and the upcoming holidays. People are likely to gather and let their guard down around family and friends, causing infection rates to continue to increase.
Secondary administrators Cliff Fries and Dave Slagle collectively shared that they are still in the initial planning stages for reopening secondary schools when the time comes. Primary learners' priority would take precedence in the planning process, and families' impact is being evaluated when determining if a half or full-day option would be best for our secondary students. It was discussed that we are experiencing challenges throughout the remote instruction process. We are discovering that students cannot self-regulate during the independent (asynchronous) learning periods throughout the day. We are evaluating options to improve this model. Various ideas are being discussed, such as returning to a six-period schedule or block schedule in November to prepare students for an eventual return to in-person instruction while increasing engagement and providing more teacher-led instruction to our students. Matt Carlson spoke of the different ideas that are being evaluated as we move toward reopening. Ideas such as different technology items may allow students to receive in-person instruction and synchronous learning simultaneously while not being in the same classroom due to social distancing limitations. Kevin Collins discussed that we are working on offering more structured support to our students and building a more structured schedule as we move forward. Secondary administrators ask for feedback from students, parents, and community members regarding wants, needs, and considerations for improving our current virtual instructional model and ideas for consideration as we continue to plan for reopening. Administrators can be reached at OHS: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and OMS: email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. We are committed to making it the best that we possibly can for all students and are asking for your help in doing this; please share your feedback with us. We are continually working to improve our current model as we move towards reopening.
Lynne Rosellini acknowledged that we had heard the feedback of the community about Athletics. There is a meeting scheduled for Thursday (10/22/2020) with District Athletic Directors and Coaches to discuss what virtual options we can offer our students at this time to improve student engagement, and most importantly, the social and emotional health of our students and athletes. More information to follow about the Thursday meeting about Athletics as we hope to launch this by November 2, 2020. We have much planning to do and plan to share this information as soon as possible. Chris Willis shared that we have improved our self-screening attestations and will be issuing weekly reminders about COVID-19 symptoms. In the past week, we have had 214 students on campus, emphasizing working with these families individually for scheduling purposes. We have maintained small groups of less than 5-to-1 groups, which have been working well. In the past three weeks, we have had nine students and five staff members present symptoms of COVID-19 and have not had any positive cases on campus so far.
Dr. Tony Apostle expressed that we all want our students to return to in-person instruction as soon as it is safe to do so. Although with higher infection rates, we need to continue the gradual and cautious approach as we work toward reopening as we monitor the risk level and follow recommendations set forth by the TPCHD. As a District, we will continue to adhere to TPCHD and state counsel's recommendations concerning reopening and planning for a phased in-approach as surrounding districts throughout our region. In the future, to ensure our stakeholders are aware of our current trend data impacting our ability to reopen and monitor public safety, we will begin sharing updates and letters by Dr. Chen of the TPCHD as they become available. Task Force plans to reconvene and discuss the next steps in reopening Orting Schools on November 10, 2020.
Respectfully, Holly Mortenson