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Seniors celebrate as they make their way to the front of North Bend High School during graduation last year. The district still hopes to get high schoolers back in class this year.

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COOS COUNTY ─ As COVID-19 numbers rise in the county, the North Bend School District is delaying bringing older grades back to campus.

“…County metrics indicating that virus is still high in our county and rising … caused us to rethink and do our due diligence to keep our kids and folks safe,” said Brad Bixler, the district’s HR director and communication’s specialist.

The students being delayed from returning to the classroom are fourth= and fifth-graders, who were scheduled to return Monday, Jan. 19.

“We want to open as soon as possible in a way that’s safe for students, staff and families,” Bixler said. “We are not going to hesitate longer than needed. We prepared robust plans for getting students back but can’t move forward until we see a drop in the case count in our county.”

Bixler said the district expects more information from the governor next week, providing additional guidance on reopening.

“The high school reopen dates are far enough out that it’s not impacted by the decision, so that is a tentative date we are still hopeful for,” Bixler said.

Similarly at the Coos Bay School District, Superintendent Bryan Trendell said fourth and fifth grades will also wait to return for another couple weeks “so we get a good look at the (COVID) numbers.”

“If the case numbers start to go back down like we hope, we will plan on bringing fourth and fifth grade back,” Trendell said. “We will have a timeline out to our families and the community by the end of the week, understanding that it’s a timeline that can be altered depending on the number of cases.”

In addition, Trendell said there will be a gradual rollout once older grades are allowed back to the classroom. He explained that not all grades will return at once but start with an eventual return of fourth through sixth grade, with seventh grade to follow and then the high school after that.

“After each stage, we will look at numbers and reevaluate,” he said. “We will gradually add as we go and get the high school in hopefully sometime in February. I would like to get kids back as soon as we can, but I understand we have to do it as safe as we can.”

Trendell acknowledged the balance between weighing case numbers in the community with student achievement and student mental health

“All of those things go into play, as well as the numbers of cases,” he said.

In the Coquille School District, Superintendent Tim Sweeney said there are no delays in students returning to school.

“Everything is going well,” Sweeney said. “We have had students in this week at Winter Lakes High School and Coquille Jr. and Sr. High. … Students are wearing the back-to-school clothes they got back in August. They’re glad to be returning to campus.”

Sweeney said the return of students has been rolled out in a way where there are only a couple hundred people in one building at a time.

“We’re taking it slow and easy,” he said.

 While in the Bandon School District, Superintendent Doug Ardiana said there will also be no delays for students returning.

“We have brought middle schoolers back on (Jan.) 11 and have students on a six-day rotation,” he said, explaining that sixth, seventh and eighth grades have been broken into two groups each. “So (they) may attend school and then not attend for seven days.”

He said that the high school is on the same rotating schedule and if they return as planned on Jan. 19, “they will only be in contact with 75 people. That’s a small cohort.”

“We will continue to monitor that until we have a case in our community or a larger spike in our metrics,” Ardiana said.

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