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C.O. leaders want schools open; governor’s office says case counts must drop first

(Update: Adding video, Broadman comments; governor's office response)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Bend city councilors and councilors-elect, Bend-La Pine School Board members and other local officials wrote to Gov. Kate Brown, seeking more testing and K-5 classes restored in a month. But the governor's office says a surge in COVID-19 cases must ease for that to happen.

In the letter sent Wednesday, officials urged the governor to allow kindergarten through fifth-grade students to return to in-person classes on Jan. 4, and older students as soon as possible after that.

They are asking that the governor help strengthen COVID-19 testing at schools and help fund smaller class sizes to increase social distancing.

Councilor-elect Anthony Broadman put it this way: "This is a workplace safety issue, in order to facilitate getting our kids back to in-person school."

Broadman said creating a safe work environment is a top priority

Schools in New York City, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, are set to reopen next week, saying they are doing that by ensuring that workplaces are safe for staff and teachers.

In the letter council members stressed, "Workers and small businesses and families who depend on them will also continue to struggle if we fail to open schools, both now (as parents stay home to teach their children) and in the future (as we fail to adequately educate a generation of Oregonians). solving the current and growing economic crisis hinges on whether we can meet the current public health crisis."

"Kids who are already struggling, kids from families with fewer means or without access to reliable internet -- they're the ones that really bearing the brunt of lack of in person education," Broadman said.

He also maintained that flexibility was key in their proposal

"I think it's really important that families have the option -- if they don't want to send their kids back, if there's people with underlying health issues that don't allow them to return to work, we need to honor those health decisions," he said.

"I think that's part of it," he said. "None of this works without the workplace being safe."

A spokesman for the governor's office provided a statement Thursday to NewsChannel 21, holding to the stance that the surge in COVID-19 cases has to reverse before more children are back in class.

"With cases and hospitalizations spiking across Oregon, most school districts will need to remain in comprehensive distance learning," the governor's office said.

"No one disputes that getting kids back in classrooms will improve students' educational outcomes, as well as their social and emotional well-being." the response said. "But if we want to reopen schools and keep them open, we have to bring COVID-19 rates down to safer levels."

Here's the local officials' letter, in full:

December 2, 2020

Governor Kate Brown

State of Oregon

Director Colt Gill

Oregon Department of Education


Dear Governor Brown and Director Gill,

Thank you for your tireless advocacy on behalf of Central Oregonians.  We are confident that your efforts since March have saved countless lives and mitigated the spread of COVID-19.  Without your leadership, we would surely be in an even direr situation.  

We are writing to formally request that you further prioritize in-person K-12 education in Oregon, by overhauling current criteria for school reopening to recognize improved scientific understanding of COVID spread among children and opportunities to contain infection through screening and testing. Please consider (1) allowing elementary school students to return to in-person instruction on January 4, 2021, and (2) mobilizing available resources over the next 30 days toward a systematic testing approach focused on testing/screening students, teachers, and staff who choose to participate in in-person learning to prevent major outbreaks in schools and communities.  

Our community, like most of Oregon, is encountering the darkest hour of the pandemic to date.  But there is no more important institution in our community than education.  We see this as an opportunity to refocus on centralized proactive testing as a way forward out of the current phase of the pandemic.  Families and teachers have supported these measures across the country.[1]  This is a dynamic public health crisis.  The science is young and challenging for us as policymakers to digest and act on quickly.  But data now show that elementary schools do not significantly contribute to spread of COVID-19.[2]

To that end, we ask that you:

  • Centralize and emphasize community testing of students, teachers, and staff at elementary schools, striving to match or exceed New York City Department of Education goals of testing 20% of students, teachers, and staff who choose to participate in in-person school on a monthly basis.
  • Open K-5 elementary schools on January 4, 2021, independent from county test positivity or county case rate, in consultation with public health authorities.
  • Allocate and advocate for funding to ensure schools are as safe as possible for children and safe workplaces for teachers and staff, including ensuring that schools have the funding necessary to reduce class sizes in order to meet spacing and other health and safety requirements and funding for solutions and measures for teachers and staff unable to work in the classroom.  
  • Continue and strengthen, as needed, science-based restrictions and contact tracing on gatherings, businesses, and other sources of the spread of COVID-19 that have resulted in significant outbreaks.
  • Implement measures to ensure older children can return to school safely as soon as possible after January 4, 2021.
  • Prioritize opportunities for vaccination for teachers and staff as vaccines become available. 

Kids from all backgrounds are suffering disproportionately from the lack of in-person education.  But school closures are exacerbating the privilege gap, which is particularly concerning in communities like ours, where we struggle to serve our most vulnerable kids and families.  Workers and small businesses and families who depend on them will also continue to struggle if we fail to open schools, both now (as parents stay home to teach their children) and in the future (as we fail to adequately educate a generation of Oregonians).  Solving the current and growing economic crisis hinges on whether we can meet the current public health crisis.

You have been presented with an exceedingly difficult situation and led us admirably.  We owe it to Central Oregon children and teachers to act on the data now available to us—to pivot from “treating schools like they are uniquely dangerous, when in fact they are uniquely essential.”[3]  We are confident that working together, if this effort proves misguided, we can nimbly adapt as Oregonians have done throughout this pandemic.  Thank you for your leadership.    


Sally Russell, Mayor of Bend

Anthony Broadman, Bend City Councilor-elect

Melanie Kebler, Bend City Councilor-elect

Megan Perkins, Bend City Councilor-elect

Rita Schenkelberg, Bend City Councilor-elect

Gena Goodman-Campbell, Bend City Councilor

Justin Livingston, Bend City Councilor

Bruce Abernethy, Bend City Councilor

Chris Piper, Bend City Councilor

Bill Moseley, Bend City Councilor

Barb Campbell, Bend City Councilor

Phil Chang, Deschutes County Commissioner-elect

Rep. Cheri Helt, HD 54

Carrie Douglass, Chair, Bend-La Pine School Board

Amy Tatom, FNP, Bend-La Pine School Board

Caroline Skidmore, Bend-La Pine School Board

Julie Craig, Bend-La Pine School Board

Shimiko Montgomery, Bend-La Pine School Board    

Katy Brooks, CEO, Bend Chamber


[2] See attached Letter of Dr. Kate Broadman of October 13, 2020, compiling data;  (“mounting evidence has shown that elementary schools in particular can be relatively safe, as long as strict safety protocols are followed.”)

[3] Id. at 1.

Bend / Central Oregon / Coronavirus / Education / News
Author Profile Photo

Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.



  1. Unless there is someone willing to contribute more money to Governor Brown than the NEA, the answer is no.

    It is not about facts, safety or children, it is about power and money.

    1. you’re such an idiot! teachers want to go back, they just want it to be safe for them and the kids! you jerks who hate teachers will not care if some of them die, so at least the NEA is looking out for their members!

      1. The NEA, like most bloated and corrupt unions, does not represent individual union members, (Teachers), they represent power and money….and they definitely do not represent the interests of students. Nice Pavlovic response.

          1. Your lack of reading comprehension skills and predilection for judging and stereotyping people who disagree with you are disturbing. My comments are not about teachers, students, or teacher motivation. My comments are about people in power making decisions…..a statement of ‘YOU PEOPLE’ is always a red flag.

      2. Crook County has been open for months now- stop praying for gloom and doom and go with the facts that smack yer lib bottom everyday ! “Schools” and children are not high risk ! The virus is mild- not a single child fatality on the books- for 10 months and counting ! Stop the hysterics- the misinformation… just take the weekend off from this site and your computer- you’ll all calm down- trust me !

    2. Let tell you something you idiot! half the parents won’t send their kids back, so teachers will be teaching split classrooms, basically double the work. They will have live classroom and still be responsible for all their kids back at home and you could care less about that right? Because you have never done a job as hard as teaching you have no empathy!

          1. Your spouse should have taught you that when you revert to emotional responses while expressing or contesting an opinion is, in the modern nomenclature, “A FAIL”.

            1. Many here have been given the green light to verbally abuse and bully other posters on this site- it’s a clear failing by “you know who” that insists that the “other job” is more important… It’s why so many have left ! Neverrumper is merely a product of his environment- one that attracts hateful angry people !

      1. Wrong. Every school already has teachers lined up who will take care of the students who have signed up for full year online. The system is already in place. Please do not talk about crap you know nothing about.

        1. Every one needs to just shut up and obey. The empress has spoken. You will NEVER get your lives back and your children will be blithering idiots. Get used to her NWO. You get what you vote for. Just wait till Biden takes office. I am watching you enter the darkest winter of your lives and you begged for it. Tough ******* idiots.

  2. How completely irresponsible. When infection rates are the highest ever they want to return students to the classroom. I get it, this year sucks. But be responsible. My goodness. Everyone loves to talk about personal responsibility until they need to do it.

    1. Everyone is responsible for their own health and safety but don’t try to force anyone else to be responsible for yours.

      If you’re worried, stay home, keep your kids at home, shield your elderly. Those of us that aren’t worried want to live our lives.

      Do we force everyone to protect the elderly to such an extent every year because they are vulnerable to the flu? No, we don’t. If we did, nobody would ever get to leave their house.

            1. Apparently not if they have to write kitty a letter begging her to let them get back to work. It’s right there in the first sentence of the article 😐

        1. Pardon me Never Trump but most school district employees ARE back in the buildings. As a matter of fact most never left! Aides, Custodians, Nutrition staff………. all “putting their lives on the line”

          Educate yourself before you comment please

          1. I’m married to a teach, clown, I know what’s going on in the school buildings. but not with hundreds of little germ bombs running around! educate yourself, you need it!

            1. So does the old lady know that you refer to her students as “little germ bombs”- and that you spend all day on this forum disrespecting the highest office in the land and President of the USA ! Why don’t you tell us all which school district this lovely wife of yours works for- I’m willing to bet there are hundreds of parents out there that would love to know more about the kind of left wing radical influences their children are being exposed to !

  3. If you step up testing you get more case counts.
    But what concern are the case counts when the vast majority of people don’t even feel symptoms?

    Covid is the perfect obedience loop. At first the narrative was that there would be bodies iled up everywhere. There never have been so the narrative shifted to case counts to keep everyone in line.

    Nearly a year later and people still comply knowing the testing is horribly flawed and hospitals are not being overwhelmed. People even ignored that all those field hospitals that were intially set up were never used.

    The greatest threat we face today is the stupidity of the masses.

    1. Our greatest threat is the stupidity of clueless fools like you. Stupid people don’t know how dumb they are! you probably think trump is smart, right? case closed!

        1. Looks like Barney gets his wish is spreading his poison under another stage name. Never Trumper said it best and you are only hurting and dividing people. Like Trump, only care about yourself.

          1. Nope ! Unlike so many of you- BGHW will never try and disguise or trick anyone into not knowing who yer talking to. I stand by my comments- cause they’re so damn good ! Now for the topic at hand- Kate Brown’s ongoing assault on our Oregon economy. The facts are clear- Brown has been a disaster- so much so- that she is now counting on President Trump’s vaccines and his historically successful Warp Speed program to save her (and our) hides ! There is no way around these facts ! President Trump now has a bunch of companies ready to stick that needle in your little bum and put an official end to the China attack on our part of the world. After H1N1- Obama didn’t do krap- Biden spent his time making phone calls to the Ukraine to get various SOB’s fired- President Trump came in- re-organized Obama’s non-functioning pandemic control program and stream lined it to the point that Trump was able to get vaccines produced by various companies in records amount of time ! trump said he’d do it in 10 months… well guess what- he’s still got a month to go ! Damn if the guy didn’t do it- so where’s your gratitude- your thanks- your acceptance that Donald Trump has been a pretty damn good President- no matter what KTVZ allows through this portal !

  4. How about listening to the science instead of selfish parents. How about we open schools back up when the threat of over flowing hospital beds go down. We have not seen the peak yet. Spring will be a good time to go back to school.

    1. The problem is not hospital beds. Hospitals always operate near capacity. Kate brown is one sided and can only look at COVID numbers (which are highly inaccurate and skewed). She has no ability to lead and no intention of opening schools, restaurants or fitness centers. She won’t stop until she has destroyed Oregon. Kate is an idiot who has no idea how to be a leader

  5. It’s OK, but be ready to go full remote again the second anyone in your class tests positive. You’re going to be bouncing back and forth until everyone is vaccinated.

    They also might want to avoid in-person staff meetings that cause the entire staff to need to quarantine when one tests positive.

  6. What’s most interesting is that any statistic related to schools, transmission and death isn’t even reported. How can a school be worse than a grocery store? The naysayers will cry foul because they are arfraid of the scientific fact that kids are less susceptible to covid.

    1. Fauci is the leading disease expert in the country. Who are you listening to, Trump? Gee, who would I believe first, the leading disease expert in the country or someone who lies every time they speak….

      1. Well he is saying to send kids back to school, so why are we not listening to the leading disease expert in the country? PS you should read the links before you reply to them and look more foolish than you already do.

  7. Fauci. “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the spread of the virus among children “is not really very big at all” and is now advising to get children back in the classrooms.”

  8. I am concerned that the letter does not specify criteria for a return to in-person instruction. In particular, bullet point two: “Open K-5 elementary schools on January 4, 2021, independent from county test positivity or county case rate, in consultation with public health authorities.”

    In my mind it may as well say “oblivious” to county test positivity rate. The Nov. 22 rate for Deschutes County was 9%–double the week before. Jan 4 is an especially unfortunate time for a return to school, as we will not know the full extent of family gathering contagion until at least mid January. Is it too much to ask to be cautious until, at least, we have a vaccination program underway?

    I am also concerned that hurrying back to school will help to promote the narrative that we need not continue to take the necessary precautions to save lives and keep essential medical services available.

        1. Gee Bill… I did go see… and here’s what I found on page four- *The definition used for COVID-like illness has changed for the most recent week” !!! This “change” has resulted in covid “ED visit” data jumping from .7% to 4.8%… the first time such data has reached “above the 1.5% threshold” since spring ! Do you not get it yet ??? You are being played as a fool- manipulated through constant changes in terminology- standards and rules to try and prove a political point ! The evidence is clear for those intelligent enough to recognize the scam- the hoax- the 10 month con- when they see it. Sorry for the rest of you who don’t !

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