Governor Kate Brown on Thursday announced an executive order to return Oregon students to the classroom — almost one week before the one-year anniversary of the day she ordered schools closed at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a move that House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, of Canby, hailed as a “welcome first step.”
“The thousands of families across Oregon who have been advocating for the education and well-being of their children are finally being heard,” Drazan said in a statement — noting, however, that the governor’s order would not result in an “immediate reopening” of all schools.
“I look forward to working with her administration and our local school districts to continue to support a full return to in-person instruction as soon as possible,” she said.
Brown’s March 5 letter to the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education directed all Oregon public schools to offer universal access to in-person instruction on or before the weeks of March 29 for K-5 students and April 19 for students in grades 6-12.
“Thanks to the smart choices Oregonians have made, our Covid-19 numbers have declined,” Brown said. “All but six counties now meet or exceed Oregon’s advisory metrics for a return to in-person, hybrid learning for all K-12 grade levels.”
Clackamas County has been downgraded to moderate risk in the state’s Covid-19 framework for reopening businesses — and appears likely to stay there, according to a report by county health officials this week, assuming current trends continue.
“The science is very, very clear: With proper safety measures in place, there is a low risk of COVID-19 transmission in school,” Brown said. “Oregon parents can be confident about sending their children back to a classroom learning environment.”
After the weeks of March 29 and April 19, all public schools in Oregon will operate under either a fully on-site or a hybrid instructional model when counties meet or exceed Oregon’s advisory Covid-19 metrics, the governor’s office said.
Individual students or parents who want to remain in comprehensive distance learning, or who have health needs, may do so.
The OHA and ODE are expected to issue updated guidance for the governor’s new directives no later than March 19.
“Closing schools in Oregon is a decision I will never forget,” Brown said. Parents, educators, school staff, but especially students have come so far while navigating the challenges of this pandemic. Welcoming students back to every school across Oregon will be a milestone worth celebrating.”
Canby schools reopened for hybrid in-person learning just last week for the youngest students, and children in grades 4 through 6 are scheduled to return next week for those whose families opted in.
Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall reported this week that 61% of families with K-6 students had chosen to send their kiddos back to school, while 39% opted to stay in distance learning.
Limited in-person instruction also resumed at Canby High School last week. A hybrid start date for grades 7-12 has not yet been confirmed but is being targeted for April 1.
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