Sunday, February 28, 2021

Othello students won’t return on-campus in December

Staff Writer | December 9, 2020 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — All students in the Othello School District will stay in all-online instruction at least through the start of winter break Dec. 18.

Kindergarten through third grade students had been scheduled to return to hybrid, or on-campus instruction part-time, on Dec. 7. But hybrid instruction was delayed after Othello School Board members adopted guidelines for the number of COVID-19 cases in the district that would trigger a school closure.

The plan establishes two sets of guidelines, one for preschool through sixth grade and a second for seventh graders through high school seniors. They’re based on the rate of coronavirus cases in Adams County, as calculated per 100,000 people over a two week time period.

As of Dec. 5, the case rate in Adams County was about 1,114 cases per 100,000 people for the period from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, according to information from the Adams County Health Department.

For preschool through sixth grade, a case rate greater than 400 cases per 100,000 people will mean all-online instruction. A rate between 100 and 400 cases per 100,000 people will trigger a return to part-time on campus instruction. One hundred cases per 100,000 people, or less, will allow a return to traditional school.

Seventh graders through high school students will remain in online instruction as long as the case rate is 300 cases per 100,000 people or more. Hybrid instruction will start when the case rate reaches 100 to 300 cases per 100,000 people. A case rate of 100 per 100,000 people, or less, will mean a return to traditional school.

Pete Perez, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said there are a lot of factors involved in the decision to move from one phase to another.

“We just wanted to be clear with everyone that the transition would include consideration of the rate per 100,000, also the rate of spread in our community, specifically in Othello apart from the county, and also what’s happening in our schools. Our staff on site - do we have enough employees to operate safely? Those factors would influence which direction we move,” Perez said.

Perez cited the example of a case rate of 405 cases per 100,000 people. Whether that would trigger a return to all-online at the elementary level also would depend on the rate of spread in the district and whether there is enough staff to operate school, among other things.

“These metrics are meant to inform our decision making,” Perez said.

The school board vote was 3-2, with board members Lindsy Prows and Sharon Schutte voting “no.” Board members Mike Garza, Jenn Stevenson and Ken Johnson voted in favor.

“This is a very tough and complex decision,” Garza said.

He said he supported guidelines because they provided the basis for some planning.

Prows said board members have been under a lot of pressure, both from people who wanted to reopen schools and people who wanted online instruction.

“This is not an easy decision,” Prows said.

Johnson agreed that it was a tough decision, and added he doesn’t think it will be the last.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at