News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters schools snapshot — keeping an eye on the ‘red zone’

• Sisters Elementary School Principal Joan Warburg praised school district nurse Trish Roy for her professionalism and hard work during the pandemic in helping the entire district in navigating and managing health protocols, contacting families, and keeping students cared for. She is grateful to have had all of the grades in school the past month.

The preschool expects to be up to 12 students by the end of January and has a maximum capacity of 18. Warburg acknowledged the hard work and sacrifice all of her staff have undertaken to keep the elementary school open for in-person learning. Warburg also reported that she has been corresponding with families about their plans for the second semester since some of her students are doing Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) or Sisters Educational Options (SEO) full time. Staff and students are preparing for the possibility of having to return to CDL after January 4 depending on how COVID infection rates look over the upcoming weeks.

• Alison Haney, principal of Sisters Middle School, also lauded nurse Trish Roy for being a “health administrator” for the district. She presented an abbreviated version of a complex document showing the plans that have been made for when the middle school will be able to return to school in person in the months ahead.

Students will be split by alphabet and attend school two days per week in person and carry a total of four classes at a time. In response to being asked about data showing academic progress, Haney reported that it has been a challenge to collect data due to being on distance learning and because of the high number of new students for which they don’t have baselines. Plans are in place for further assessments/testing in the second half of the year.

Haney also commented that, in addition to all the normal workload, her staff has continued to work on the district mission/vision. Haney also reported that attendance rates for fifth through eighth grades range from 92-96 percent so far this year.

• Sisters High School Principal Joe Hosang also showed the work being done in preparation for students being back in school, including the physical space needed for students and staff.

The high school student schedule would remain largely the same as they are keeping during CDL. Hosang shared statistics about how students are doing in regard to passing rates during the six-week terms and the efforts by staff — including counselors and teachers — to keep students on track.

Hosang believes that having the students carry just two or three core classes at a time has made it much easier for them to manage distance learning.

Students have benefited from Limited In Person Instruction (LIPI), which may be in jeopardy if the region remains in the red zone regarding infection rates.

He also reported the graduation rates have continued to improve markedly since 2013, which is a big part of the school improvement work that the high school has been doing. The district reported a 92-percent graduation rate for last year.

Hosang also mentioned that getting feedback from students about how things are going continues to be helpful as adjustments are made.

• Business Manager Sherry Joseph presented budget updates including that property-tax revenue is back on track and is three percent ahead of the same period last year. The Student Investment Account (SIA) came in at about one-third of what was originally expected due to state budgets, with a total of about $266,000 in the fund. (The SIA was established as an enhancement of the State School Fund and school districts were able to apply for grants through the program, which Sisters received.)

• Special Programs Director Martha Hindman’s observations are that Sisters schools are doing as well as any district she has heard about. She noted an increase in students in special programs, many due to move-ins, particularly at the middle school. She is continuing to work on the state-mandated Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling program with the school counselors.

• Enrollment is up a bit according to Superintendent Curt Scholl. He noted his concern for the social/emotional challenges for students under the COVID-19 restrictions. Overall, he is hearing positive things about how the schools in Sisters are succeeding under the hybrid and CDL models of instruction. Scholl acknowledged the obvious challenges in the weeks to come as infection rates in Deschutes County, including the Sisters community, have continued to climb, leaving the district in the red zone, which means the in-person instruction may be largely impacted heading into January. He is awaiting updated news from the Governor’s office and the Oregon Health Authority.

• In other business, the board voted 5-0 in favor of pursuing a school bond in 2021 that will dovetail with the current bond that is being retired in the next year. The bond would be a continuation of the current tax rate and can be used for school-building and other improvements. This vote allows for the creation of a political action committee to be formed in order to promote the bond.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 6, at 6?p.m.


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