Ocean Crest Elementary School playground

The playground at Ocean Crest Elementary School where students in fourth and fifth grade have returned to the classrooms this month. 

The Bandon School District welcomed fourth- and fifth-graders back to Ocean Crest Elementary School on Nov. 9 and hopes to bring back older students in the coming weeks.

“We are watching the metrics, hoping to bring back the sixth grade on Dec. 7,” Superintendent Doug Ardiana said. “That will depend on the metrics to see if we are able to do that.”

Students in seventh and eighth grade would return to the classroom a week after sixth-graders.

A change in the state’s metrics for when schools can reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed Bandon to bring the fourth- and fifth-graders back to in-person learning, joining the younger students who have been back in the classroom since September.

Students in the elementary school attend classes full time Monday through Thursday, with Fridays set aside for teachers to prepare.

Ardiana was thrilled the district was able to bring more students back to the classroom.

“I think it’s going great,” he said. “Our parents have been very receptive to it. I’ve had a lot of positive comments.

“There were some students that benefited from the distance learning. The majority of kids are benefiting from in-person instruction. And the social connection part of it is huge — a huge part of overall mental well-being.”

He understands the concerns of some teachers who are worried about returning to in-person learning as the numbers of COVID-19 cases are surging statewide and on the South Coast.

“We are very concerned about staff safety,” Ardiana said.

While several cases of COVID-19 have been reported at other South Coast schools, requiring cohorts of students and staff to go into quarantine, there have not been any cases in Bandon schools.

Ardiana hopes that in-person learning at Bandon High School can resume in January, with freshmen returning to the school on Jan. 4 and the sophomores, juniors and seniors on Sept. 11.

“That is our tentative date,” he said. “It all depends on the metrics.”

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