School District Finalizing Plans as Local Group Pushes for Reopening Now

The Canby School District says it is working to finalize a plan for gradually reopening classrooms, starting with students from kindergarten to third grade, while a growing group of local parents and community members demands more immediate action.

Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall said in a letter to parents Monday that the district is eager to begin easing students back into classrooms — based on the announcement by Governor Kate Brown that she would lessen restrictions on schools and offer resources to help get schools on track to reopen by Feb. 15 — but is still approaching the transition cautiously.

The superintendent said he will review the Oregon Department of Education’s revised guidance for resuming in-person instruction when it is released on Jan. 19 and is also meeting with Clackamas County public health authorities to determine the best ways to safely reopen classrooms.

The district will also be conducting a parent survey to get a read on how many families would take advantage of in-person learning opportunities when they are available.

“We understand some families may not want their children to return to our classrooms at this time,” Goodall said. “After I meet with state education leaders, local health authorities, teacher leadership, and district staff this week, we will finalize our plans around in-person learning and share a timeline with all families.”

As directed by ODE, Canby schools will prioritize elementary school students in return plans, Goodall said.

“Once we can successfully demonstrate that we can operate without contributing to the spread of Covid-19, we will add other grades,” he said.

While the governor announced her goal late last month of placing more districts on track to reopen classrooms by February, she also reclassified the coronavirus metrics for schools from mandatory to advisory.

The move — criticized by some as “cowardice” — put the reopening ball squarely in the courts of local superintendents and school boards, virtually guaranteeing a showdown between parents, district leaders and community members who want an immediate reopening and those who would prefer a more cautious approach.

A public Facebook group, Open Canby Schools, boasted nearly 300 members as of this week and had begun circulating a petition demanding that Canby schools reopen now.

“Today is the day our schools could legally be open,” local attorney and former Canby City Councilor Tyler Smith, who created the group, said in a Jan. 4 post promoting the petition. “Your kids could be learning in person. Your gyms could be used. The kids could be playing with their friends! But they are not!”

The petition asks community members to sign the signature sheet and fax it to the district office, or email copies to Goodall and all seven members of the Canby School Board.

The board is scheduled to meet for its regular session at 6:30 p.m. Thursday via Zoom. The agenda includes time for a lengthy report from Goodall on the return to school planning.

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