Yates: New COVID rules ‘fantastic’ for schools

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Superintendent Bo Yates provided a brief update regarding COVID, and Tami Volz, school improvement and federal program director, presented a glimpse at what summer school will look like this year during the school board meeting May 13.
Regarding COVID, it’s been a struggle to manage the shutting down of classrooms from time to time, but the school district is working with Linn County Health to follow guidance and get kids back as soon as possible, Yates said.
“We’ve had instances at the high school where we’ve had to shut down and we only lost a couple kids, and then schools that are one-room classrooms like our elementaries, when they shut down they’ve asked us to shut down the entire class. So there’s been a little discrepancy in how things have been handled, but we’ve been working with them to try to make things as smooth as possible,” he said.
But with Gov. Kate Brown’s most recent announcement, things seem to be headed in the right direction, Yates said Thursday, hours after the governor announced today that fully vaccinated Oregonians no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces.
There are a few exceptions, such as public transportation, hospitals, correctional facilities, and long-term care facilities.
“The governor allowing us not to wear our masks this evening and moving forward, that’s fantastic. It feels like freedom a little bit,” he said.
Regarding summer school, Yates feels confident the district is well-prepared for the coming years to catch up on education lost due to COVID, he said.
Before the pandemic, the district had already created a strategic plan for summer school, and COVID actually provided the district with more resources to round out a team and do those things needed to pay closer attention to the kids’ education, he said.
Volz announced 96 staff members have applied to participate in summer school, which was surprising and good news, she said, and the district already has a five-person leadership team in place.
“It’s a pretty amazing team. We’ve never had that many people supporting and coordinating summer school in the past,” Volz said.
So far, 377 students from K through 12 are signed up for summer school.
“The high school will focus on the credit recovery part, and they have about 70 students currently who have registered,” Volz said. “We have enough students at each school to definitely have a significant summer school program, and we have the staff to match that. Our biggest bottleneck is transportation.”

The district isn’t sure, yet, if the online school will be able to participate in an online summer school because the numbers are so low, she noted.

The district is looking at using the morning portion as academic enrichment time, and the afternoon is reserved for enrichment programs, Volz said. That may include opportunities to participate in programs with the Boys & Girls Club, or swimming, robotics and sports camps at the high school. The OSU Extension program also expressed interest in helping.

Present at the board meeting were Yates, Tammy Schilling, Mike Martin, Richard Borden and Todd Gestrin.

In other business, the board:

♦ Heard an update regarding the Student Investment Account. The district is three-quarters of the way into its first year of the SIA. The funds have been reduced, so the district could only do part of its plan, Schilling said.

The district had $1.08 this year. With that, the district added kindergarten systems to the classrooms, two mental health workers, and bilingual and translation services. Next year, the funding will go up to $2.7 million, which will help the district add mental health staff, a middle school CTE teacher, an English language teacher, and instructional assistants to help with K-3 literacy. They will also start its Deans of Student Success plan, providing a dean for each of the K-8 schools.

“With that group, we’re going to have consistent, specific training which aligns to the SIA principles,” Schilling said. “That’s just really going to elevate what we can do in the schools as far as providing behavioral support, but also improving the culture of the school, which improves academic achievement.”

The intention of the SIA grant is to increase the district’s engagement with the community and its stakeholders, and reduce academic gaps for the marginalized students, she said.

♦ Approved a $1.842 million contract for HMK for the guaranteed maximum price for the high school seismic rehabilitation project.