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Ellensburg School District students will not be returning to the classroom on even a part-time basis in the fall, but instead will received instruction remotely to start the year.

This is changed from the school board’s decision in June, that stated the district would adopt a hybrid learning model, in which students were in class two days a week and received remote instruction the other three days.

The decision was made by the school board Wednesday after the Kittitas County Incident Management Team recommended all schools open virtually. In the meeting, the board members unanimously voted to follow the IMT’s recommendation.

“We’ve got to make hard choices in these seats, and we’ve got to make hard votes,” said School Board President Tosha Woods. “It’s not fair to our teachers and to our staff and to our students and families if there is uncertainty going into the fall. It is not fair to them to work diligently for two weeks just to be shutdown, which is what we’re seeing in Georgia, which is what we’re seeing in the South and across the nation right now.”

Woods said she believes the district now has the tools to make online education much better than it was in the spring.

The recommendation made by the IMT states in-person education “has been successful when COVID-19 incidence rates are less than 25 case per 100,000 for a period of two weeks. At this time Kittitas County is over 200 cases per 100,000 for the last two weeks. Our goal continues to be returning to in-person educational instruction as soon as that is safe.”

Superintendent Jinger Haberer recommended a slight variation of the county’s recommendation to the board that all students start online, and if the county is able to get to 25 cases per 100,000, they should try to move back to the hybrid model of learning. This is also if the district receives the “green light” from Kittitas County Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson.

Haberer said the district will have two learning pathways for online learning. These models are virtual academy and hybrid pathway.

The virtual academy was created before education was moved entirely online. The deadline to sign up for virtual academy was Aug. 2. Due to the recommendation from the county, the deadline was extended to Aug. 12. Over 800 students signed up for the virtual academy before the original deadline.

Haberer described the learning in the virtual academy and the hybrid model in an email to the Daily Record.

“The virtual academy is for students who will be learning at home throughout the year. Students will remain in the virtual academy for a minimum of the first semester, then will have the ability to request a model change if desired. These students would not be attending the schools in-person. All students will have access to our district learning management system (LMS) called Schoology as well as Edgenuity, our Board approved digital course provider.”

“Teachers in the hybrid model will have academic freedom to alter, supplement or create a new course to align with their practice in meeting the Washington Learning Standards. The virtual academy teachers will utilize the Edgenuity courseware as it has been designed. Edgenuity is also aligned with Washington State Learning Standards. Virtual courses will not be identical in scope and sequence to our hybrid courses, but all students will be provided exposure to the Washington State Standards for all applicable courses.”

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