By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The Bend-La Pine and Redmond School districts on Wednesday said they are committed to starting the year online – regardless of whether Deschutes County meets the health metrics that would allow K-3 students back in class.
Oregon school districts can bring back students in grades K-3 if the county has fewer than 30 COVID-19 cases per 100,000, a test positivity rate below 5% and no active community spread or outbreaks for three weeks.
Deschutes County met those metrics last week with just 18 cases/100,000 and a test positivity rate of 2.1%
With 20 cases reported by the OHA so far this week, Deschutes county is once again trending to fall below the 30/100,000 required to open for K-3.
Bend-La Pine has plans to start its comprehensive distance learning model on September 14th, which means there are four more weeks between now and the start of the year
We asked district leaders if they would scramble and try to get kids back in class if the metrics were met before then, but they said no.
Bend-La Pine officials tell us they are committed to online learning for the first six weeks of the school year.
However, interim superintendent Lora Nordquist told parents during an online town hall on Monday afternoon, if the metrics are met it would open the door to limited in-person instruction for K-3, potentially allowing small groups of students to be in classrooms prior to November.
Redmond is planning to start September 10th and officials tell us they are committed to at least three weeks of online learning for consistency’s sake and to let teachers plan and train ahead of the school year.
Superintendent Charan Cline said this is the best option to give students and teachers the highest chance of success.
“We’d like to make sure the numbers are stable as we’re going through to make sure that we’re not going to yo-yo people, bring kids back to school and have to quarantine them and moving them back and forth,” he said. “We’d like to create a path that we feel like is going to be stable for our families.”
And even when the schools get the go-ahead to reopen, the district would ease younger students back into the classrooms through a hybrid model to help them learn the routines and safety protocols.
Cline released to us this look at what a return to class might look like if metrics are met in early September, showing a full return to K-3 wouldn’t happen until late October.
Most school districts in Oregon are planning a comprehensive online learning model for students for at least the beginning of the year, although some have already said they plan to be fully online through 2020.
Bend-La Pine announced July 31st it would start the year online but plans to reevaluate the situation every six weeks.
So the earliest the district will even consider a return to the classroom is mid-October.