WALLOWA — The Wallowa School Board voted unanimously Monday, July 13, to put its forthcoming school bond on the May 2021 ballot, and also confirmed plans to hold school in the school buildings rather than online or hybrid classes.

However, students who have extenuating circumstances will be able to pursue learning online.

Registration is still planned for Aug. 11 and 12 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. If all goes as planned, school should start in the last week of August.

High school Principal David Howe said that the school might offer a class for parents on how to use the new “Synergy” app on their computers or phones so that they can track student assignments and much more. That class is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 8 to 11.

The plan for the school year depends upon Oregon Department of Education guidelines that will not be finalized until Aug. 11, Superintendent Tammy Jones said.

However, Jones, Howe, the teachers and staff are working hard to make “school in the school buildings” happen. Howe said that he plans to reassign the subjects and teachers in some classrooms to minimize the distances that students will have to walk to their next class. Considerations in both high school and elementary school include ensuring that there is a minimum of 35 square feet for each student, and that 6 feet of separation can be maintained.

That means, Jones said, ordering some new furniture, including individual desks to replace tables in some classrooms. The high school library is being converted into classroom space; the books will be moved into the adjacent “Cougar Den,” Howe said. Other areas being made available for classrooms include a science lab that has mostly been used for storage.

The school district will be focused on maintaining the health of students, teachers and staff, Jones said. Measures to ensure this include observing students as they come into school to ensure that everyone in the classrooms is healthy, having hand sanitizer stations at the doors and many other places in and outside of the school buildings, and helping students maintain 6 feet of separation. Students in grades six through 12 may be required to wear face masks.

“We want the community to know that we are doing everything we can to keep their children safe,” board member Mike Lowe said.

The district’s blueprint for the school year is still under development. Jones is establishing a planning committee of teachers to help develop it. The group will meet on July 22, July 29, and Aug. 12.

The school board discussed whether it should put the upcoming bond measure on the November or May ballot. The unanimous decision was that putting it on the May ballot provided more time to engage with and listen to the community before deciding on renovations, a budget, finalizing the bond measure and putting it on the ballot.

Howe also said practice for girls basketball and volleyball started this week. The fall sports schedules are still uncertain, as are OSAA guidelines for them, he said. “We may just be playing other teams in the county or on this side of the mountain, but nothing is set yet.”

“The kids are glad to be back,” he said.

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