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Crook County schools seek state metrics waiver to keep grade 4-12 students in class

Crook County High School

District notes no COVID-19 cases have originated from schools

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Crook County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson sent a letter Wednesday to Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, asking for a waiver from last week’s COVID-19 metrics.

Crook County reported 11 new cases, which exceeds the state’s weekly metrics for Crook County schools. The decision to ask for the waiver was made after meeting with officials from the Crook County Health Department and learning the following about last week’s cases:

  • The 11 cases last week were all identified, traced, and confined.
  • More than half of the cases occurred within a defined group, and testing is complete.
  • There is no community spread.
  • No COVID-19 cases have originated from Crook County schools.

In a news release Wednesday, the school district said the Crook County Health Department supports the district’s efforts to keep schools open and continue providing in-person instruction with all of the existing safety measures in place.

That includes wearing masks, social distancing, and consistently sanitizing classrooms and buildings. The health department also reminds families to keep their children home if they have a fever or aren’t feeling well.

“This district is extremely diligent about following the guidelines to make sure we stay safe so we can stay open,” Johnson said. “But it’s important to look beyond the numbers and find out what’s really going on. Based on feedback from local public health officials, none of the cases are connect to our schools, so we don’t believe our students should be forced back to distance learning.”

The Crook County School District opened its doors to K-3 students on Sept. 8 and then to grades 4-12 on Oct. 5 after meeting the state metrics. K-5 is back full-time, while middle and high school students attend in a rotating hybrid schedule.

Crook County Middle School has been running after-school sports camps, and Crook County High School successfully completed a season of spring sports last week. No new cases have originated from the schools or these sporting events.  

To keep students in grades 4-12 in school, Crook County must meet the following metrics each week for two weeks in a row:

  • 7 cases or less
  • 30 cases or less per 100,000
  • County Test Positivity Rate of 10% or less

As of Wednesday, when 2 new cases were reported, Crook County has had 6 new cases this week, officials said.

If Crook County reports 8 or more cases this week, unless a waiver is granted, Johnson will be forced to announce that grades 4-12 must return to Comprehensive Distance Learning by Monday, Nov. 2.

However, grades K-3 and the district’s small and rural schools – Paulina, Brothers, Steins Pillar, and the Hybrid Learning Campus at Pioneer – would all continue with in-person instruction, based on state exceptions.

“We are hoping that ODE and the state of Oregon open a conversation about the metrics and consider making thoughtful adjustments," Johnson said. "If we have to close down for grades 4-12, we might be looking at early spring before school can resume, given how high the threshold is for returning. That just doesn’t make sense, when cases can be identified and confined and there’s no existing threat to our schools.”

Johnson said she is eager to hear back from ODE this week, so the district can provide timely information to district staff and families about next steps.

School District Communications Director Jason Carr said an earlier request by the school district for a state waiver was denied by the Department of Education -- but after they were able to reopen for grades 4-12, when the state suspended its test positivity rate.

It took about two weeks to get an official answer, in that case, Carr said, noting there was no timeline attached to the request. "This one does," he said, "since a decision will have to be made by Monday."

Central Oregon / Crook County / Education / News / Top Stories

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.



  1. Sorry Crook County….11 new cases, no one in the hospital, and no one dying. But your kids will PAY FOR THIS!!!! They will not be offered a real education like the rest of the state that refuses to eliminate a virus that will be here forever. Wait until flu season hits, no thanksgiving, no Christmas, nothing good will ever happen to you. DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER A RODEO!!!!!

    1. They dont care. They just want their kids out of the house because they cant take responsibility to make sure their children get the proper education themselves. All that had to be done was create online teaching jobs and make parents take responsibility. Instead, they have no qualms with sending them out to deaths door and because of their line of thinking, their children don’t even care. If you drive through prineville, you’ll notice one thing. Groups of people without mask on.

      It’s no wonder we’re now getting cases every single day. These people are putting their own children at risk just because they cant do what’s right. The city too which is over 10k people strong and with housing that is pushed so close together that it’s barely safe to be in your back yard.

      The city perpetuates the idea that its citizens are safe. Even with daily cases, they refuse to close and continue to tell them they’re safe. And they believe it!

  2. Here’s an idea. 1 new case is too many. This is how you have to treat pandemics. ONE DEATH is too much. Children should not have to be put through the experience of losing their friends. Thats exactly what you’re doing to them if you keep them in schools. You’re putting them through the unnecessary loss and creating mental issues that tax dollars will have to fix later. Until there is ZERO CASES, you need to keep schools CLOSED.

    Why would you ever close in the first place and then reopen when you have more cases daily now than you did when you started. Grow up, take responsibility and stop putting your children in danger.

    Reduced danger is still danger and that danger is DEATH. What is the driving force for thinking that in person schooling is better than online schooling? These are YOUR CHILDREN. YOU need to do whats right. YOU are the teacher now. Take the time to do it. If you don’t have time then make time. This is what it means to be a parent. If you fail your child, you fail yourself. IF your child, god forbid, dies because of some idea you have of wanting to keep him educated, then you have NO ONE to blame but yourself. THIS IS A PANDEMIC. TREAT IT LIKE ONE.

  3. Any death caused by reopening schools should be charged criminally for whoever came up with the idea. Even only putting half of the children in school. It doesnt eliminate chances of death. It only reduces the amount of children that can get it at once. In essence, the community that agrees to this is saying that they’re willing to accept the death of children to simply get them out of the house. Education doesnt need to be in schools to be effective. PARENTS are the ones that need to be effective.

    We can not simply say that just because we are not crawling with cases that we are safe. That are children are safe. That anything is safe. It only takes one person to spread it to millions. It makes no sense to put innocent children on the front line while we wait to see what happens. Fix the problem before you make it worse. Take responsibility. Until you start listening, its only going to get worse and you’ll be left wondering why when the rest of us know exactly why.

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