Remote learning official for tens of thousands of Southwest Washington students

By Troy Brynelson (OPB)
Aug. 12, 2020 8:09 p.m.

Returning to classrooms will depend on treating or mitigating Covid-19

Tens of thousands of Southwest Washington students will officially start their school years remotely this fall, following decisions this week by several school districts.

Students in Battle Ground, Camas, Kelso, Longview, Vancouver and Washougal are among those who saw their districts formalize reopening plans after weeks of deliberating. Those districts decided they won’t return to classrooms until the coronavirus pandemic lessens.

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“We’re very hopeful it’s a temporary decision,” said Troy McCoy, president of Battle Ground School District’s board of directors. “But I’ve given up making predictions about Covid-19. Like my smart children, it always seems to prove me wrong.”

Districts that have met in the last two days represent more than 80,000 students, according to state data. Plans submitted dive into the details of how online classes will work at each district – such as how some instruction will be delivered with pre-recorded materials, while others will be over live video.

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“Kids are our top priority and we just want to make sure learning is taking place, and that we’re doing everything we can to support our students,” said Julie Bocanegra, of Evergreen School District in Vancouver.

Evergreen and Vancouver Public Schools are the two largest school districts in the region. Their boards decided Tuesday night to send their plans to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction – headlined by the online-start to the school year.

It’s unclear when students will return to classrooms. Plans submitted by districts outline their efforts, and school officials say they plan to meet regularly with health experts to determine when it is safe.

But, like reopening the economy, it will depend on treating or mitigating Covid-19.

State officials last week released guidelines that assess each county’s risk-level based on the prevalence of the virus. Counties harboring 75 or more positive cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week window are considered “high-risk,” and shouldn’t physically return to class, the guidelines stated.

As of Tuesday, Clark County, the region’s most populous county, has notched 88 cases per 100,000 residents.

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