By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
President Trump and his education secretary on Tuesday called for the nation’s students to return to the classroom this fall, but Oregon Gov. Kate Brown warned continued rising COVID cases will make that less likely to happen.
“If we continue to see COVID-19 case counts, community spread, and hospitalizations rise, districts across the state will be forced to resort to extended periods of remote instruction throughout the school year,” Brown said during the first remote meeting of her Healthy Schools Reopening Council. “I don’t want to see that happen, but it is the reality we face.”
Brown said July will be a turning point in the outbreak and urged Oregonians to wear face coverings, follow social distance rules, and avoid large gatherings.
“Or we could quickly find that a safe return to the classroom is beyond our reach,” she said.
The council is charged with advising the governor and the Oregon Department of Education as school districts develop their plans for a safe return to school for Oregon’s students under the Ready Schools, Safe Learners K-12 schools reopening process.
Districts will develop plans for in-person instruction, remote instruction, or a combination of the two.
The Bend-La Pine and Redmond school districts have released preliminary plans for fall that call for a full classroom experience for elementary students and a hybrid online/classroom experience for middle and high schoolers.
Any student can opt for a full online education experience as well.
Neither plan is set in stone, but superintendents have said the proposals provide options to parents and students heading into an uncertain school year.
Crook County has developed a plan for a “regular” reopening September 8th.
“This will include online/hybrid options for students and parents who aren’t comfortable sending their children to school,” said Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. “We believe the district can meet ODE health and safety requirements without shifts or alternative days. We’ll be meeting with parents and community partners in July to explore various options if anything changes with the virus and to ensure the health and safety of our students.”
Brown’s council includes a variety of voices from across the state including students, parents, teachers, public health experts and more.
Central Oregon’s lone representative is Ardis Clark, a teacher at the Warm Springs K-8 Academy in the Jefferson County School District.
“With the current rise in COVID-19 cases across Oregon’s urban and rural communities, it is clear that we have our work cut out for us in terms of figuring out how students, educators, and staff can return to classrooms safely this fall,” Brown said. “This council will help to advise me about what measures we can put into place to help make our schools safe, but whether students can return to classrooms or not at the start of the school year is up to each and every one of us.”