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Crook County schools welcome back K-3 students for in-person classes

(Update: Adding video, comments by school principal, district superintendent)

District hopes to bring back all students in three weeks.

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Taylor Trautman's first day as principal of Barnes Butte Elementary in Prineville was probably different than she envisioned.

"I think I'd call it an opportunity," she told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday.

Not only was it her first day -- Tuesday was the first day of in-person classes for kindergarten through third grade students in the district -- the first public school district to return to the classroom in Central Oregon since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"One of our main priorities is always going to be safety,” Trautman said. “Every day, parents and families trust their students with us, and we take that job very, very seriously."

Numerous now-familiar changes were made, with safety in mind; Temperature checks at the door, mandatory masking, grab-and-go cafeteria meals.

Things like recess are now split up into zones, and they rotate every three weeks. Children will remain in their designated zones with their designated groups, to make contract tracing easier.

Each zone also has its own balls, the school purchased more than 200 new ones.

Dr. Sara Johnson, the district superintendent said they spent more than $300,000 on supplies.

Several other Oregon school districts that met the state's COVID-19 metrics chose not to open just yet, but Dr. Johnson said it's what parents wanted.

"We don't always like to be, as we call it, the tip of the spear,” she said. “But we felt on this, that we're providing the correct option for the families."

Tuesday was an important first step.

Trautman said, "We want to continue with our safety measures and our health protocols, so that we can have all students return to all buildings, because we know that's our No. 1 goal.”

The district said it's taking a week-by-week approach to bringing back all of its students.

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.


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