Wednesday is Reynolds Middle School students’ last day of in-person classes before the school begins a transition to short-term distance learning. The transition includes two days without instruction for students at the Fairview, Oregon, school, as teachers prepare for a move to online learning over the next few weeks.

There will be no instruction on Thursday and Friday. The district said devices and curriculum materials will be sent home with students Wednesday. Then, starting Monday, students will be in short-term distance learning until Dec. 7.

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Unlike Reynolds High School’s earlier move to short-term distance learning in September, this school closure isn’t due to COVID-19 exposures and quarantines.

In a message to the school community shared Tuesday, Reynolds superintendent Danna Diaz said the move will make sure “Reynolds Middle School has the necessary social-emotional supports and safety protocols in place to provide a safe learning environment for all students”.

Diaz said time out of school has had an impact on student and staff well-being.

“The shifts in learning methods and isolation caused by COVID-19 closures and quarantines have taken a toll on the well-being of our students and staff,” Diaz said.

“We are finding that some students are struggling with the socialization skills necessary for in-person learning, which is causing disruption in school for other students,” Diaz said.

District spokesperson Steve Padilla said the decision came out of a discussion between the union representing teachers and the superintendent, as behavior issues and disruptions that started at the beginning of the school year have continued.

“That’s where it made it hard for our teachers to conduct their lesson plans and to feel safe, and for other students to feel safe, because of some of the outbursts that were happening,” Padilla said.

Reynolds Superintendent Danna Diaz is expected to share a report on discipline in the district at a board meeting Wednesday evening.

According to the report, there have been 135 instances of physical contact or aggression at the elementary level, with 19 instances of fighting or “mutual altercation.” Numbers were higher in October than in September.

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At the secondary level, which includes middle and high schools, there have been 148 instances of fighting or “mutual altercation,” and 21 instances of “physical altercation,” or pushing and shoving.

Padilla said shifting to temporary distance learning at Reynolds Middle School couldn’t wait until the winter break.

“We don’t want to wait until it could possibly escalate into something much more dangerous,” Padilla said.

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Over the next three weeks, beginning Monday, students will either be distance learning or out of school. School will be closed for Thanksgiving break on Thursday, Nov. 25, and Friday, Nov. 26. Monday, Dec. 6, is marked as a day for teachers to transition back to in-person learning.

The school will then bring students back slowly, with individual grades back in-person for one day each starting Tuesday, Dec. 7. All students will be back in school that Friday, which is Dec. 10.

During the distance learning time, Padilla said the district and school staff will work on changing some things at the school. Two additional campus monitors will be added at Reynolds Middle School, and two more added at Reynolds High School.

Padilla adds that the district is working with the teachers’ union and staff on “grade level reflection sessions.” This includes training for teachers to help students reflect on what’s going on at the school, how to change the school culture, and teaching students emotional regulation skills.

Padilla said the reflection sessions at Reynolds Middle School will serve as a pilot for other schools in the district to use in the future.

He said district leaders are asking parents and families for patience in this time.

“Let us come up with some great professional development skills for the teacher and relationship building skills for the teachers to be able to come back and work with their students and create a healthier school culture and climate,” Padilla said.

During distance learning, the school will offer meal pick-ups from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this temporary transition may cause,” Diaz said. “We are confident that we can put necessary supports and operational procedures in place to effectively provide a safe learning environment for all students and staff during this time.”

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