Wasco County Commissioners met Wednesday morning and heard an update on schools from Claire Ranit, a consultant working with the Columbia Gorge ESD. She said all the districts in the region are planning some kind of hybrid model, which would involve a mixture of distance learning and actual classroom attendance. They’re also working on dividing classes into smaller cohorts, and on transportation.

“Some schools may or may not start with distance online initially in the fall, and may transition to a hybrid but that hasn’t been decided yet,” she told commissioners. She said all schools will be utilizing a hybrid at some point, “and all will be prepared to do short-term full-distance education in the case that there is an outbreak within a school that’s large enough to close a school building.”

School districts must submit their plans to the health districts and the state by Aug. 15.

The board also heard a COVID situation report. North Central Public Health District’s Dr. Mimi McDonell said that there was a slight dip in the rate of new cases in Wasco County, which was encouraging, but testing was taking longer and longer. That drew this comment from Commissioner Kathy Schwartz, who formerly headed the health district.

“There are so many spikes in different states like Florida and Texas and Arizona and a lot of supplies and capacity are going to those states,” she said, “which leaves it really difficult for the rest of us so you’re right: We’re worse off now than we were months ago.”

She also urged commissioners to do everything possible to “amp up the message” that people need to maintain social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing, and all agreed they would increase their efforts.

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