MEDFORD, Ore.- Today is the first of two days of freshman orientation at North Medford High School ahead of a hybrid return to campus at the end of the month.
Students and administrators say they’re ready to return to campus, though it still comes with important COVID guidelines to follow.
“They communicated, and we know that they need to be back on campus,” North Medford High School Principal Dan Smith said of students returning. After having an empty campus for a year, he is just as excited as students to see a return to the classroom.
This week, freshman are attending orientation on a school campus they’ve never set foot on before. They’ve been learning online since last year.
“The connection online, we are doing the best that we can to keep that going, but the students have really said I need to be connected with a larger group of students. So it’s been great to see that we are making this move now.” Smith is also determined to give seniors a strong finish to their high school experience.
“We’ve got some special stuff planned for them because we want it to also be fun and a celebration for them,” he explained. Though the return comes with guidelines like physical distancing, wearing masks, and sanitation procures, Smith doesn’t seem worried about students following them.
“Everyone of them wearing their masks and following the rules. I just think they are very excited and happy to be back at school, and really wanting to know how we are going to move about the campus and maintain six feet,” he said.
When students return after spring break, they will only be allowed to be on campus every other day. Capacity and six-foot distancing requirements make it difficult to have the entire student body there.
The Center for Disease Control is currently studying whether schools can cut the distancing down to three feet, with masks required. Some states have already made that move.
New Oregon Department of Education guidelines don’t include that change, but it’s something districts across the valley are hoping for because it would mean more kids in the classroom.
“It would pretty much mean that we could bring all kids back on campus all day, every day. We are watching that very closely because getting all kids back on campus really is a top priority,” Principal Smith said.
Ashland School District Superintendent told us in an email today that the ODE has informally indicated that they have data to support a 3-foot physical distance requirement, most notably at younger grades. Both Grants Pass School District and Klamath County School District sent a resolution to the state encouraging the revision.