Armed with headsets, the Nyssa School District Board of Directors made a change to the 2020-2021 school year calendar and received updates for limited in-person instruction during Monday night’s monthly meeting.
After a couple of months of audio problems at the board’s meetings (which are held via Zoom, with the board members meeting in person) the School Board wore headsets during Monday’s meeting, allowing the members to speak without audio interference from each other.
During its August meeting, the start day of the school year was moved back a week to Aug. 26, allowing teachers and parents more time to get adjusted to distance learning (guidance from Oregon Department of Education was still being rolled out into August, causing every school in Malheur County to move the first day of school back).
However, on Monday, Nyssa School District Superintendent Darren Johnson said the calendar now had unbalanced quarters, as the end of the first quarter was moved to Oct. 23 and shortening the second quarter.
The motion to update the school calendar was passed unanimously. In the new calendar, the end of the second quarter was moved to Jan. 7 (previously it was Dec. 17). The end of the third quarter is March 11 and the end of the fourth quarter is May 26 (these are both unchanged).
The principals of Nyssa School District also gave an update to the board on Monday, which came following an update to school metrics and limited in-person instruction guidance that ODE released on Oct. 30.
Malheur County, a large county with a low population density, needs to have a case rate lower than 100 per 100,000 population. There must also be no community spread as determined by Malheur County Health Department.
“I have heard the community and I have heard the school board,” Johnson said. “Everyone had the desire to return to in-person.”
Also coming in the new guidance from ODE was an update to limited in-person instruction. Now, students can be in cohorts of up to 20 (up from 10).
According to Principal Matt Murray, Nyssa Elementary started bringing students in on Oct. 12, with the kindergarteners getting in first. Every week, the school is bringing in a new grade and Murray said the plan is to have all grades in for limited in-person instruction on Dec. 14.
Currently, Murray said about half the student body is able to come into the classroom for limited in-person instruction.
At the high school, Principal Brett Jackman said limited in-person instruction started with special needs students and classes where distance learning is difficult, like welding, construction, band and choir.
When asked by board member Torie Ramirez, Jackman said students who are struggling with distance learning are given priority for limited in-person instruction, adding that when the school looks at the attendance for the first quarter, it is “almost identical” to a list of students who are not passing classes.
Middle School Principal Luke Cleaver said that communication is the key for helping students who are struggling.
“If you have a student who is struggling, please reach out to us and we can get them on the list and we can bring them into the classroom,” Cleaver said.