New ODE metrics’ Safe Harbor designation allows Crook Co. Schools to stay open

Students in the Crook County School District will stay in the classrooms thanks to new COVID-19 metrics announced Friday by Gov. Kate Brown.

The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education created a special designation for schools already providing in-person instruction called Safe Harbor.

This allows certain districts to remain open through at least January 4th and work with local health departments when making decisions about keeping schools open for students.

“The updated metrics do a much better job of taking into account our community’s population size and allow us to coordinate more closely with the Crook County Health Department when determining the safety of keeping schools open,” said Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson.

The January 4th date is a deadline for the district’s Safe Harbor designation.

After that date, the school district will follow the new metric system created by the state.

Counties with fewer than 30,000 residents, such as Crook County, now only track actual case counts and the county’s test positivity rate over a 14-day period.

The state’s test positivity rate no longer applies.

This means Crook County can have up to 45 cases over a 14-day period to remain in the current hybrid model for grades 6-12.

State leaders said today that a review of national and global data indicates that schools aren’t superspreaders and can safely reopen when community spread is low and health and safety protocols remain in place. Crook County School District has a robust safety plan that includes sanitizing the air between passing periods.

“We’ll continue to take all safety precautions seriously and make sure our district goes above and beyond what the state requires. I’ve been really proud of our staff – and especially our custodians and bus drivers – who work tirelessly to sanitize, keep the air flow in our schools moving, and do everything possible to reduce any possible spread of the virus,” Johnson said.

Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education, specifically mentioned Crook County School District in the governor’s press conference today.

The Safe Harbor designation allows for greater flexibility to make local decisions for schools in collaboration with the county health department, and creates certainty for districts already open as they transition to the new metric system.

“We have a great partnership with the school district and their nurses, and we’re doing everything we can to keep the community safe so schools can stay open. The best way to prevent the spread of the virus is for everyone in the community to wear masks, physically distance, avoid private social gatherings, and stay home if you have a fever or don’t feel well,” said Katie Plumb, Deputy Director with the Crook County Health Department.

Students in grades K-5 are attending school full time, while grades 6-12 are in a rotating Blue-Gold hybrid schedule.

That model will continue through the 2nd Quarter, which ends January 22nd. The district will then re-evaluate the metrics and consider bringing middle and high school students back full time.

Crook County High School recently developed a campaign called Stay Safe, Stay Open.

Students across the district have been reminding parents and community members through video messages to wear masks and social distance so students can stay in school.

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