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Gilchrist High

Students at Gilchrist Junior/Senior High School attend in-person classes.

Klamath County School District is asking the state to allow its students to return to the classroom for a full in-person schedule on April 5.

It is the fourth proposal by Superintendent Glen Szymoniak to petition Governor Kate Brown for metric changes since September.

School board members met for a special board meeting Thursday morning where they unanimously voted to approve a resolution to send a letter to Gov. Brown, asking her to make adjustments to Ready Schools Safe Learners that would allow all K-12 students the option to return to a full day of in-person instruction.

The letter, which will also be sent to Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority, cites the educational and mental health toll on some students who are not attending a full slate of in-person classes.

Students would continue to have the opportunity to attend school virtually.

“Providing a quality education in a safe, nurturing learning environment is my highest priority,” Szymoniak said in a news release. “This proposal will continue to do that while providing students with the in-person learning needed for future success.”

The letter asks for adjustments to Ready Schools Safe Learners for cohorts and social distancing for schools in counties that meet the following criteria: employees had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, strong use of health sanitizing in the district, mask wearing and social distancing being strictly enforced, and that there be no confirmed spread of COVID-19 in schools. In addition, local public health authority has to approve the school’s blueprint.

The resolution also showcases the district’s success in returning students to in-person instruction last fall.

All other state qualifications would remain in place such as the use of masks, contact tracing, sanitizing protocols, and quarantining cohorts as needed, according to the news release.

“Despite the efforts of our teachers, who are doing a phenomenal job, many of our students are struggling and their education and mental health is suffering,” said Steve Lowell, chair of the KCSD board, in a news release. “We are concerned prolonged distance learning may impede the ability of our students to master the skills they need to be successful.”

The letters will be sent with a letter of support from Jennifer Little, director of Klamath County Public Health.

“Schools are where communities turn for consistent, nurturing environments for children,” Little said in the letter. “A proactive return to campus will resonate throughout the lifetimes of students.”

In October 2020, Szymoniak proposed new county allowance metric based on population density to allow grades 4-12 to return to classrooms, according to a news release. In December, he made a successful bid to adjust metrics and allow public health officials to determine when students could return to in-person instruction. Recently, Szymoniak wrote state lawmakers to advocate for COVID-19 liability coverage for school districts.

The Klamath Falls City school board may consider a similar resolution in the future, but according to superintendent Paul Hillyer, the board has not voted on a resolution at this time due to the superintendent search.