Districts hope to have students back in class soon - if the numbers allow
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Despite two straight days of record COVID-19 case numbers, Gov. Kate Brown and other state officials on Friday unveiled new, more flexible guidelines for more -- but not all -- students to return to classrooms.
Gov. Kate Brown held a news conference, with the state health and education leaders, to announce and discuss the new metrics.
"We must begin prioritizing getting our students back into the classroom for in-person learning," Brown said.
She noted that data shows schools do not appear to be the "super-spreader" locations that many had feared.
The governor also stated that nearly 130,000 students could return to class based on the updated metrics, but the vast majority of students will remain at home until case counts and positive test rates decline.
The new metrics are as follows:
-Counties that have 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people -- over 14 straight days -- will remain in distanced learning.
-If the county has between 100 and 200 cases, that places them in the transition column.
-Fifty to 100 cases places a county in a hybrid of on-site and distanced learning.
-Counties with fewer than 50 cases are eligible for on-site learning.
That leaves Bend-La Pine Schools in Deschutes County K-3-eligible, but Interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist is moving forward with caution, awaiting the first round of two-week numbers on Monday.
"With the case counts this week, we (in Deschutes County) have had three days in a row around 25, so we're very concerned," Nordquist said. "We're watching those numbers, but if we make it on Monday, we will immediately be communicating and getting our kids back to school before Thanksgiving."
The Redmond School District is in much the same situation.
Superintendent Dr. Chara Cline told NewsChannel 21 he is fully confident his staff and students are ready.
"We'll start off with a hyrbid over a week to train students in this new environment," Cline said. "After a week, we will bring back K-3 full time."
Crook County Schools have been in session for weeks. Under the new "safe harbor" provision of the revised metrics, they'll be able to remain open under the old metrics until at least Jan. 4. After that, they'll have to adhere to the new metrics.
Perhaps the biggest critic of the new metrics is the head of Oregon's teachers union, the Oregon Education Association.
OEA President John Larson issued a statement following the governor's press conference that said, in part, "The governor's decision to hastily implement new, relaxed metrics will only serve to disrupt education for students, families, and educators."
Many have questioned the addition of new, reduced or more flexible school reopening metrics, at a time when cases are surging to record levels.
State officials said these are not radical shifts, and having zero risk is not the way forward. And they said the lengthy closures are having a variety of negative impacts on students, families and communities.