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West Valley’s school board will hold off on a proposed timeline for a staggered return to campus so the district can gather community and staff feedback.

The Yakima Health District said earlier this week that it plans to make a public announcement about potential in-person learning this coming Monday.

Meanwhile, West Valley School District is among those that are beginning to serve small groups of students with high needs in person.

The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has encouraged districts to prioritize in-person learning for students determined to be “furthest from educational justice.” State and local public health guidelines allow small groups of students to gather in-person, with the Yakima Health District recommending groups of five or fewer.

Happenings in West Valley

A 15-page “safe return plan” released by West Valley School District on Tuesday outlined safety procedures and protocols for how students and staff would be safely returned to campus amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The district began discussions over the summer with staff and parents about options.

The plan, which was virtually presented to the school board Tuesday evening, outlined proposed dates for student groups to return to campus, with students in grades K-12 first to return on Oct. 12.

While the overarching plan regarding safety procedures still holds when campuses do reopen to students, Superintendent Michael Brophy said the board held off on the timeline.

“The board decided in a nutshell … that they wanted to have more of an opportunity for staff and community input before they make a final decision, so they tabled it last night,” Brophy said Wednesday.

He added that the district would also have to submit a plan to the Yakima Health District for approval and then make agreements with its staff associations before confirming a timeframe for the return. He did not say whether the original timeline, which staggered student returns to campus from Oct. 12 to Nov. 23, would be feasible given the board’s decision.

“We’re not trying to be in a hurry,” Brophy said.

Two Zoom meetings will be held to offer an opportunity for questions and discussion:

• For staff: 2-4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 29

• For community members: 7-9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1

Dial in information will be posted on the district website.

Meanwhile, special education and preschool students will return to in-person learning on Monday following strict safety guidelines, Brophy said.

Selah’s plans

In Selah School District, roughly 40 of the district’s 3,500 students returned to in-person learning across various campuses on Monday, said Superintendent Shane Backlund. He said students were prioritized based on “an identified high need” for in-person support.

The district plans to gradually introduce more students to campus based on need, Backlund said.

The district had planned to gradually introduce more students to campus based on need, Backlund said. The district is now considering how to blend those plans with a transition to a hybrid learning model in anticipation of new Yakima Health District guidance.

The district plans to make plans public following the anticipated health district announcement, he said.

Yakima’s plan

In Yakima School District, Superintendent Trevor Greene and school board members discussed earlier this week that the district should move cautiously in the direction of in-person learning.

While no decisions were made, district communications director Kirsten Fitterer later said the district hoped to maintain its distance learning model for the first 18 weeks of the year, as planned, and return in full to campus if trends allowed next semester.

“Our dream is that we would skip hybrid (learning) altogether and go full on next semester, but we just have to see what the metrics are,” she said of local COVID-19 trends.

The district intends to return high-need students to campus gradually. The first group of students that will return to in-person learning will be the district’s teenage mothers in the coming weeks. More information on those plans and future small groups to gradually return is expected in the near future, she said.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka