The Camas School Board voted unanimously Thursday evening to appoint Doug Hood, the district’s director of elementary education, as its interim superintendent for the 2021-22 school year.
Jeff Snell, who has led the district for the past decade — as deputy superintendent from 2011 to 2016 and as superintendent since 2016 — announced his departure last month, after being named the new superintendent of the Vancouver Public Schools district. Snell plans to start his new position in July.
The school board also announced it has hired the Omaha, Nebraska-based search firm, McPherson & Jacobson, which recently led the search for Vancouver’s new schools head, to help find Camas’ next superintendent.
School board members said Thursday, April 1, during the board’s special meeting, that appointing an interim superintendent for the next school year and hiring a search firm would allow for a more thoughtful search.
“Hiring a search firm allows our community and staff to be involved,” said board member Connie Hennessey.
“As we continue to gather input (from the community), having an interim superintendent allows us to really get this right,” added board member Corey McEnry, “and lays the groundwork to talk about who this community is really looking for.”
“What our district and community needs most right now is stability,” McEnry said, adding that appointing Hood to the interim position “will allow for that stability.”
Camas School Board President Tracey Malone said that, although Snell’s departure “leaves big shoes to fill,” she is looking at the yearlong hunt for a new superintendent as a chance for the district “to learn and grow.”
This is a developing news story. To learn more about Hood and how he views his appointment as next year’s interim Camas School District superintendent, read next week’s Post-Record, which publishes on Thursday, April 8.
Secondary students move to four days of in-person learning in mid-April
The school board also discussed a new physical-distancing guideline at the April 1 meeting, which will soon allow for more in-person learning throughout the district.
The new COVID-19 safety guideline, handed down in March by the United States Centers for Disease Control and then last week by the Washington Department of Health, states that students inside school classrooms can safely distance 3 feet instead of 6 feet.
The new guideline means Camas’ middle and high schools will be able to accommodate more students in each classroom and move into four-days-a-week of in-person learning already happening inside Camas’ elementary schools.
Secondary students will transition to the new schedule on April 19, with Hayes Freedom High School students moving to four days of in-person learning on April 12, said Camas School District Assistant Superintendent Charlene Williams.
“The capacity is determined by the physical distancing,” Williams said, noting that the 6-foot distancing guideline still applies to areas outside the classroom, and that some situations, including certain band activities, call for an even greater distance of 9 feet between students.
Hood said the move to 3 feet of distancing inside elementary school classrooms will allow students to attend their neighborhood schools four days a week and provide more leeway for Camas elementary teachers who want to rearrange their classrooms.
“They could bring back some teaching stations or reading rugs, if they want to,” Hood explained.
Williams said she and other district leaders have been meeting with secondary staff to help them prepare for the move from 6 feet of distancing to 3 feet, and addressing teachers’ concerns.
The move will double student capacity in some classrooms, Williams said, and the district likely will need extra staffing support to accommodate the extra students inside of its secondary schools four days a week.
COVID-19 numbers ticking up in Clark County
Snell said Thursday that COVID-19 transmissions “are starting to creep up” again in Clark County after more than a month’s worth of steady declines.
The slightly higher rates, which have gone from around 90 cases per 100,000 residents to 105 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, are “of some concern” Snell said, especially considering the upcoming Easter weekend and the district’s Spring Break next week.
“Hopefully we will all follow (COVID-19 safety measures) and not see our rates creep up anymore,” Snell said.
District leaders agreed Thursday that they would like to keep Camas students in school, even if COVID-19 transmission rates start to climb toward the state’s guideline of 200 cases per 100,000 residents as a cautionary number for secondary students attending in-person classes.
The school board agreed Thursday to take a three-tiered approach to rising numbers, with Snell and other district leaders paying close attention when transmissions approached 175 cases per 100,000 residents or when positive test results, which are hovering around 3 percent now, climbed to 7.5 percent. Snell would become more concerned with the numbers hit 200 or positive test rates went to 10 percent; and would begin to dig deeper into the data once the cases climbed over 225 per 100,000 residents or positive tests increased to greater than 10 percent.
“I would recommend not going back to hybrid until (transmissions) reach 225 and collecting data to bring to you as a board,” Snell said.
Williams added that her conversations with secondary staff members this week pointed to a general consensus that teachers at the district’s middle and high schools also would like to stick with in-person learning as long as possible, even if cases started to rise again.
“They want some consistency,” Williams said. “There seemed to be, in those preliminary conversations, an appetite for continuing with four days (of in-person learning).”
The board members agreed.
“I 100-percent agree,” said board member Erika Cox. “I don’t want to yo-yo, and I appreciate the conversations with staff to get their feedback.”