The Aberdeen School District will reopen this fall in a hybrid instruction model that brings the youngest learners and most vulnerable students back into the buildings for in-person instruction on a modified schedule, while students in Grades 4-12 will start school in a distance learning model until COVID-19 case counts have abated.

Superintendent Alicia Henderson outlined the plan for the Reopening Task Force at its meeting Thursday evening. The Task Force is a stakeholder group of 80 people that includes parents, principals, teachers, staff, and union leaders. It has been meeting weekly since June 11 and is on schedule to present the plan to the School Board on August 11.

“We would like to provide an in-person option for all students, but current health conditions do not allow us to do that safely,” Superintendent Henderson said. “However, we are confident that we can safely reopen school for preschool and K-3 under guidance that permits up to 10 people in a classroom. In addition, we will be working with the parents of our special needs students to determine who to bring back for in-person services.”

“Critical to our success will be strict adherence to all safety measures by our students, staff and families,” she added.

Until recently, Grays Harbor was a “low risk” county and the Task Force was focused on a plan that provided in-person instruction for all grades. But as COVID-19 case counts began to rise this summer, the Governor’s Office paused the reopening process.

This week, Gov. Jay Inslee and local health officials issued updated guidance that places Grays Harbor as one of nine “moderate risk” counties. For moderate risk counties, the governor recommends distance learning for middle and high school students, with in-person options for elementary school students.

Dr. John Bausher, Grays Harbor County health officer, this week issued guidance recommending K-12 students start the school year with a distance learning model, or, in special circumstances, a hybrid model. Special circumstances are defined as having the staffing capacity and facilities to implement all safety measures outlined by Washington State Department of Health K-12 Schools Fall 2020-2021 Guidance and the Washington State Department of Health. He encouraged schools to prioritize elementary students and special education services, and to utilize remote learning models for older grades.

Superintendent Henderson invited the Task Force to continue planning for the eventual return of all students. The work of the Reopening Task Force can be found on the ASD5 website under the “Reopening” tab.

Distance learning remains an option for all families. “We are committed to a robust system that provides flexibility and the best opportunity for our students to be successful,” Henderson said.