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Return-to-Learning Update – Jan. 7

A message from Superintendent Cydney Vandercar • Changes in state guidelines for schools, elementary classroom shifts 

Dear 4J families, welcome to 2021! We hope you had a restful winter break. As students and staff are returning to online learning this week, we want to provide an update about the potential return to on-site learning in the new year:

  • State guidelines for schools are changing
  • Elementary classroom shifts can be delayed
  • What to expect next

Getting students safely back to school in-person is a high priority for Oregon and for Eugene School District 4J.

Coronavirus case rates remain high in Lane County and even higher in the Eugene metro area at this time. We continue to plan for a phased-in return of students to school buildings starting as early as February or later when public health conditions improve.

Changes in State Guidelines for Schools

During winter break, Governor Kate Brown announced new guidelines for in-person learning.

Governor Brown has asked that local school districts continue making decisions based on science, public health and safety, and work toward the resumption of in-person instruction to the extent possible. That has been and will continue to be Eugene School District 4J’s approach.

Oregon has established public health metrics guiding when schools may resume teaching and learning on-site. As of January 1 these metrics have shifted to advisory recommendations rather than mandatory restrictions. This does not cancel the public health guidance but allows school districts to consider more localized health conditions and readiness in making local decisions about when it is appropriate to reopen for in-person learning.

COVID metrics for returning to in-person instruction: Illustration showing "we are here" near 300 cases per 100,000 populationThe health and safety of our students, staff and community is of the utmost importance. Eugene School District 4J will continue to be informed by local public health data and metrics in determining when students may safely begin to return to in-person learning.

State education and health authorities are set to provide additional updates to the public health metrics and guidance for schools on January 19. The district is awaiting this updated guidance to consider in planning for when schools may resume on-site instruction.

Extensive health and safety measures will continue to be required, including wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance, and responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.

Elementary Classroom Shifts Can Be Delayed 

When hybrid learning begins, students enrolled in the Same School Hybrid learning pathway will begin learning on-site and online in alternating weeks. Students enrolled in the Same School Online pathway will continue learning at home.

Elementary students in the hybrid and online options must be grouped into separate classrooms to make this possible. Most students in the hybrid pathway will not see significant changes, but some students will have a different teacher or class grouping.

Classroom changes will not happen at the start of the semester on Feb. 1 unless the hybrid model is being implemented in early February. Classroom reassignments will be made shortly before students return to school buildings in the hybrid model.

The district originally expected elementary classroom changes would need to be made at the start of the semester, even if the hybrid model began later due to public health conditions. This has changed. Responsive to your feedback, our student data team has worked diligently and creatively to develop a solution that will enable this shift to be made later.

Making this shift at a time other than the semester change will create additional challenges, but will make it possible to keep students and teachers stable in their current classrooms for longer. Thank you in advance to our elementary families for your patience and understanding when this transition comes.

What to Expect Next

We understand that many families are eager for students to return to school buildings as soon as possible. 4J is committed to resuming in-person learning when it is safe to do so and will lean into the guidance from our expert state and local partners when making decisions for our school community.

We will continue to provide updates when there is news to share. Watch for:

  • Continuing updates on local COVID-19 metrics: Posted weekly on district website
  • Update after the state releases revised guidelines for schools: Week of Jan. 19
  • Notification of student’s hybrid cohort assignment: Before hybrid model begins
  • Notification of hybrid model to begin: About 2 weeks or longer in advance

Thank you for continuing to support your students in distance learning, and for following health and safety protocols to help reduce our local COVID rates and make it possible for students to return to on-site learning.

Our priorities remain the health and safety of our students, staff and families, and our students’ academic growth and social emotional wellbeing.

This pandemic has been a long and difficult challenge for us all, but we are confident that our district—full of strong and dedicated teachers, staff, students and families—will find an appropriate balance and continue to support both health and educational needs. Eugene School District 4J will continue to provide the best education and care we can for all of our students, whether online or on-site.

Cydney Vandercar
Interim Superintendent
Eugene School District 4J


Learn More

Previous Update: Planning for Hybrid Learning in New Year

State Metrics for Hybrid Return
Current Case Rates by County
How to Protect Yourself & Others
Health & Safety for On-Site Learning
4J Return to Learning FAQs 

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