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More than 400 sign petition to reopen Redmond schools this fall

(Update: Adding comments from petitioner, RSD superintendent)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Redmond woman has started a petition asking Governor Kate Brown to allow Redmond schools to return back to in-person learning. 

The petition, called Back To School - Redmond School District, has already garnered more than 400 signatures toward its goal of 500.

Shana Whalen, the mom of a Redmond eighth-grader and creator of the petition, told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday she created the petition after attending a virtual school board meeting and leaving with unanswered questions.

“Including the Redmond School District in the same county as Bend-La Pine Schools? Those numbers are very different,” Whalen said.

Gov. Kate Brown announced new health metrics last month that determine how and when school districts in Oregon will reopen. 

The metrics are based on the number of positive COVID-19 cases and positivity rate per capita, on a county and statewide level.

The county must have 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents in a week, which would apply to all students in all grades.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with Redmond School District Superintendent Charan Cline on Wednesday to hear about the district’s plans to return students to in-person teaching.

“For K-3, on the other hand, we can have less than 30 and less than a 5% positivity rate. If that happens, we’ll start bringing in our students much sooner than that,” Cline said.

Cline said he is aware of the petition, and he appreciates what parents are doing for their children.

“I understand everyone’s working hard for their kids and working hard with what’s best for their children, and I respect that,” Cline said. 

The metrics set requirements for when students and staff can go back to classrooms for in-person instruction, or if they would have to transition to comprehensive distance learning. 

Whalen’s petition claims Redmond students are “unnecessarily prevented from returning to the classroom” because they are grouped with surrounding areas in Deschutes County that do not represent their student population.

“The point of the petition is not for Governor Brown to relax the safety metrics, but for her to consider the metrics based on school district population, rather than an arbitrary county line,” Whalen said.

Cline said he wants to bring students and staff back to schools when they can reopen safely, and when the county meets the required metrics.

“What we’re planning on doing is really creating some steps for success for all of our teachers and all of our kids,” Cline said. “Even if we could start on Sept. 2, we’d create three weeks of distance learning, primarily for students and teachers to learn the platforms.”

After three weeks, if the county continues to meet the required metrics, the district plans for Redmond students to transition to hybrid learning, both online and in-class.

Cline said the hybrid curriculum would include teaching students how to wash their hands and walk down the hallways while practicing social distancing. 

He said it would also give them an opportunity to see if the metrics are stable.

The Redmond School District serves students from Redmond, Eagle Crest, Tumalo, Terrebonne, Crooked River Ranch and Alfalfa.

“I’ve communicated with the state epidemiologist, and his feeling is that ZIP code levels are too unstable,” Cline said. “They’re simply not broad enough to get a good picture.”

Based on the Deschutes County Health Department’s website, there have been 109 cases in the 97756 ZIP code for Redmond and Eagle Crest, 81 cases in the 97703 ZIP code for Tumalo, and 22 cases in the 97760 ZIP code for Terrebonne and Crooked River Ranch. The 97701 ZIP code, which has 191 cases, largely makes up Bend but also includes Alfalfa.

“We have people that come to Redmond to work,” Cline said. “So there’s a real mix of people that happens all the time. Redmond is not just a confined geographical area all by itself.”

To stay updated on the Redmond School District’s fall re-entry plans, visit their website.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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