OKANOGAN - The new state guidance that allows three-foot distancing for students poses problems for the Okanogan School District, so hybrid learning will continue through the end of the school year.

Hybrid learning involves a combination of in-person and online classes.

The reduction is allowed for elementary students and “would also be allowed for middle and high school ages if a cohorting model were being used,” said Okanogan school Superintendent Ashley Goetz. “A cohort is defined as a group of students who spend their entire school day together; there is no mixing of groups.

“Unfortunately, Okanogan and most other districts, do not cohort secondary students because of the multiple subject credits they must earn for graduation.”

Six-foot distancing guidance remains in place for adults, student meals, large groups and transition times.

“In Okanogan, the lack of physical space combined with large classes sizes in places throughout the district prohibit the reduction to three feet at this time,” Goetz said.

In addition, the distancing change concerns public health officials because of rising COVID-19 case counts in Okanogan County, new virus variants and their unknown effects to the community, and most students not yet being able to receive vaccines.

“Carefully evaluating at all of the associated benefits and risks of fully reopening prior to the school year’s end and the potential of jeopardizing what we know works, Okanogan School District will remain in their hybrid learning model for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year,” Goetz said.

The administrative team plans for a full reopening of schools in the fall with all students back to in-person learning five days a week, and on a regular schedule.

In addition, those students who have been identified for additional support will have an opportunity to attend summer programming. More information is to come concerning summer school.

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