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Othello students to return to campus beginning next week

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | January 6, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — Othello School District Board members on Monday unanimously approved a revised reopening plan at a special meeting to allow preschoolers through third-graders to return to campuses for hybrid in-person instruction Jan 12.

Assistant superintendent of teaching and learning Pete Perez said sending primary grades back to the classroom is the first step in a phased plan to bring all kids back to campus part-time, called the “hybrid” model. Students will have online instruction when they’re not on campus, he said.

Students in other grades will follow, with fourth-graders through high school students returning to campus for the first time since March 2020.

Fourth- through sixth-graders will return to school Jan. 14. McFarland Middle School will begin hybrid instruction Jan. 19. Othello High School and Desert Oasis High School students will return Jan. 25, at the start of the second semester. Parents will have the option to continue in all-online instruction.

“We’re presenting these as target opening dates,” Perez said. “We’re recommending we begin with our P-K through 3 students. We targeted those students specifically because of the challenges of delivering instruction in a remote setting, particularly for our youngest learners.”

Schools statewide were closed in March in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and most Othello students haven’t returned to campus since. Primary grade students returned briefly in November, but an increase in coronavirus cases caused district officials to go back to all-online instruction.

District officials decided to take Jan. 12 and 13 to review how things are working.

“We do want to have an opportunity to assess the operational impact, what it’s going to mean for busing and food service, because at that point, on the 14th, we’d be really at 50% capacity. We haven’t been at that capacity since March of last year,” Perez said.

Elementary students will be split into morning and afternoon classes. So will MMS students, at least at first. Middle school teachers want to see kids in class every day, Perez said.

High school students would go to school every other day, all day, called an A-B schedule. Middle school teachers and administrators will consider an A-B schedule, Perez said, depending on circumstances.

Middle school officials are trying to determine the best schedule for middle school, whether it should resemble high school or elementary school.

“They’re sort of in that messy middle,” he said.