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Passing grade! Crook County K-3 students likely get to return to class this fall

PRINEVILLE, (KTVZ) -- It looks like it’s back to school -- really -- for kindergarten through third-grade students in Crook County, thanks to improving COVID-19 case numbers, officials announced Tuesday.

Superintendent Dr. Sara E. Johnson told NewsChannel 21 that COVID-19 numbers have fallen in recent weeks, putting the district within the state’s guidelines to reopen in-person classes for younger students, so long as the trend continues. A final decision is expected on Sept. 1, one week out.

“We have very few cases now -- in fact, our positivity rate last week was zero,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that while K-3 students are headed back to schools, things will look much different, with students socially distancing themselves on their bus ride in, wearing masks on campus, the school’s themselves having smaller class sizes and even sanitizing playground equipment after recess. 

“These aren’t punitive guidelines, and we're not barking and marching our little ones around, like an army or like animals, but just really helping them learn how to keep themselves healthy and socially distant,” Johnson said.

Johnson said K-3 students might not be the only ones making their way back to in-person, explaining that it is possible for the county and state to meet other guidelines that would allow all students to return before too long.

"I believe that if the activity of COVID continues in the direction that it is -- and I’m so grateful that people are being so careful and thoughtful and maintaining that distance that needs to occur to cause this slow down -- then I’m thinking, like the governor said, I think your looking at as close as 6-10 weeks."

Information released Tuesday by the Crook County School District:

Fact Sheet: Opening School for K-3 Students

Here is some basic information regarding Crook County School District’s decision for K-3 students starting the school year in-person. The official announcement/decision will be made Tuesday, September 1st, when the data for this week is released.

The Basics:

  • August 25th – updated OHA metrics released. Crook County meets the metrics for K-3 to be in the buildings. The district is now in the planning stages of opening buildings for K-3 students
  • September 1st – Review the data from the previous week and officially announce if K-3 will start in-person on September 8th if the metrics remain low
  • September 8th – K-3 will start the year in the classrooms if county metrics are met
  • What about students in 4th - 12th grades? In order to bring the rest of our students back, Crook County will need to maintain the following metrics for three straight weeks or through September 7th:
    • Maintain less than 10 cases per 100,000
    • Crook County’s test positivity rate remains below 5%
    • State’s positivity rate drops below 5%
  • Every two weeks, CCSD will review the data for 4th-12th grades. Review dates through October:
    • September 8th
    • September 22nd
    • October 6th
    • October 20th
  • Currently, Oregon’s test positivity rate sits at 5.1%, so that means 4th- 12th grades aren’t allowed to return yet. If the metrics allow, the district’s goal is to bring all students back to the buildings. 

As CCSD transitions to serve K-3 student in-person, it’s extremely important that parents register for bus service and Free & Reduced Meals. This information is needed by August 31st, so that our Transportation and Nutrition Services Departments can best serve families when school starts. We also need parents to register their students for the upcoming school year. Registrations are down this year, because of our inability to schedule Open Houses and conduct in-person registration drives.

Statements from Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson:

“We are excited that Crook County has met the state’s health metrics three weeks in a row for returning K-3 students to the classrooms. If the metrics remain low the rest of this week, our goal is to open our classrooms to K-3 students September 8th.”

“We surveyed parents this summer and an overwhelming 80% said they want their children in school if it’s safe and the health metrics allow, so we’re fortunate that Crook County’s metrics are trending in the right direction.”

“Research shows us that early childhood development is critical in grades K-3, especially when it comes to reading, so that’s why that age group is the priority.”

“Our teachers and staff have been wonderful to work with, and the district is providing additional professional development for online instruction to ensure students receive the best possible education when they’re learning from home.”

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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