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Crook County schools fail to meet exception to begin fall with K-3 in-person classes

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Crook County School District

School district still hopes to return younger students to class by Sept. 28

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Health metrics for reopening schools in Crook County for K-3 were heading in the right direction -- until late July, but a recent spike in COVID-19 cases pushed the school district over the state exception threshold. That means most K-12 students will begin comprehensive distance learning on Sept. 8, officials said Friday.

“We’ve been working around the clock to keep K-3 open, but we’re just not meeting the health metrics set by the state,” explained Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. “This isn’t a call the district wanted to make, but we’re working on plans to potentially bring K-3 students back by Sept. 28.”

For K-3 students to attend in-person, Crook County must have less than 30 cases per 100,000, a test positivity rate below 5%, and no active community spread or outbreaks for three weeks.

While the county meets the state per-100,000 metrics with 21 cases, the case positivity rate currently sits at 5.6% -- too high for K-3 students to be in the buildings. The eight cases reported so far this week will keep the county above the requirements to reopen.

Johnson says the new target of Sept. 28 allows families to plan ahead and provides the school district enough time to prepare for reopening.

“We want to avoid the yo-yo effect of opening and closing schools," Johnson said. "That puts too much strain on our staff, students, and parents, so the end of September is a reasonable target.”

The school district will review the data again on Sept. 14, and begin the process of transitioning back to the classroom if the metrics improve by then. For all students to return, the case rate needs to be less than 10 cases per 100,000 and the test positivity below 5% for three weeks.

Timeline for returning students to the classroom:

  • September 8th: Comprehensive Distance Learning begins
  • September 14th: School district reviews health metrics for possible September 28th return
  • September 28th: K-3 returns to classrooms if health metrics meet the exceptions
  • CCSD will provide families with an update every two weeks

The other exception announced this week by the Oregon Department of Education allows schools with fewer than 250 students to fully open. Paulina, Brothers, and Pioneer Alternative High School all qualify and will allow students in the classrooms on Sept. 8. The current enrollment for all three schools is 17 at Paulina, 11 at Brothers and 39 at Pioneer.

The school district will use this chart, prepared by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joel Hoff, to track the county health metrics and provide a visual representation for families and the community. Once the metrics remain green for at least three straight weeks, then the school district can plan to transition students back into the classrooms. K-3 students will be prioritized first.

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