By TED TAYLOR and HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Declining COVID cases in Crook County means students in grades K-3 will likely start the school year in class, in person, district officials said Tuesday, marking an important step to a “return to normal” many in the area have been craving for months.
“If the trend continues in the direction it’s going, we’ll be able to open on Sept. 8 for kindergarten through 3rd grade,” Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson said.
For K-3 students to attend in-person, Crook County – and counties statewide – needed to have fewer than 30 COVID cases per 100,000, a test positivity rate below 5%, and no active community spread or outbreaks for three weeks.
Over the last three weeks, Crook County reported 21, 21 and 9 COVID cases/100,000 residents with weekly test positivity rates of 4.2%, 1.1% and 0%.
The county hasn’t reported a single COVID case since last Wednesday.
“If this weeks’ good, at that point we are ready to open. We’re planning that way, we’re moving that direction,” Johnson said. “The trend has been five good weeks.”
The school district will get numbers for this week next Tuesday.
If there isn’t a large spike in numbers, they’ll tell parents that K-3rd students will definitely be coming back.
“It would take a great upheaval in the identification of new cases in order to keep us from coming back.”
And parents are on board; 80% said they wanted kids back in schools, Johnson said.
The new metrics are welcome news for the district that just a couple of weeks ago announced the school year would start online due to a small uptick in COVID cases across the county.
But things quickly turned around and Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson made plans for a possible reopening if the health metrics were met.
While a return to class for kids will feel normal, it won’t look normal once they’re inside the building.
“Advanced social distancing, minimizing the mixing of cohorts, making sure that people are wearing face coverings,” Johnson said of the extensive safety measures that will be in place. “When our kids come in, they’ll meet the 35 square foot per person guidelines and our schedules would be staggered.
Now, the district needs input on transportation requirements as it builds its routes for the new year.
Please fill out this quick registration sheet: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdVTnSFxzdOxv5E7JZnrO1T7Dj9n-hL-9qM78xtobpIsg9NLw/viewform
You can also call our Transportation Department directly: (541) 447-7789
Crook County is the only local county that meets the metrics for a return to in-person learning.
Deschutes County has had two straight weeks of acceptable numbers, but Bend-La Pine and Redmond school district officials have said they are committing to starting the school year online, regardless of whether the metrics were met to reopen.