‘Safe Harbor’ extension allows Crook Co. schools to reopen after Winter Break

The Oregon Department of Education has extended the “Safe Harbor” designation for state schools that offered in-person instruction before new COVID restrictions were put in place for high-risk counties with rising cases.

The decision means Crook County Schools can return to an in-person, hybrid instruction model after Winter Break.

“We are thrilled with this decision, and thankful the ODE has recognized that our schools have been a safe place for students and staff,” said Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. “Parents have already reached out this week pleading with us to reopen, so this is truly an early Christmas gift to our families.”

On January 4th, K-5 students will return to the classroom full time, while middle and high school students will continue with the Blue/Gold rotating schedule.

The Hybrid Learning Campus at Pioneer will also stay with their existing hybrid schedule.

The school district is still required to collaborate with the Crook County Health Department when determining if staying open is safe for students and staff.

Crook County has reported 360 COVID cases and six deaths; the county’s added 123 cases in December alone.

Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties are considered “Extreme Risk” for COVID spread, according to the latest data from the Oregon Health Authority.

The distinction puts in place COVID restrictions on gathering sizes while keeping closed restaurants and bars and gyms.

So far this year, no cases of COVID-19 have originated or spread inside the schools because of the district’s safety measures, such as wearing masks, according to district Communications Director Jason Carr.

ODE and the Oregon Health Authority said in a press release today that school districts already open have not experienced transmission of the virus, and that was part of the reason for the extension, he said.

“Crook County has left no stone unturned in the search to keep our schools open. We know that quality education is just as much as about socialization as it is instruction,” said School Board Chair Scott Cooper. “We also know that, for reasons not entirely understood, schools do not seem to be superspreaders of COVID. The action to extend ‘Safe Harbor’ is sound policy, sound instructional strategy and sound science. I am proud of staff’s advocacy for kids and community.”

The school district continues to receive calls from community members interested in becoming substitute teachers, Carr said.

As of this week, about 45 people have reached out about the process. This should increase the local substitute pool and help prevent a future closure of schools due to a staffing shortage, he said.

If families are concerned about having their children return to school after Winter Break, there are two online options available.

Grizzly Mountain HomeLink

Jonathan Oelkers

(541) 903-0565

jonathan.oelkers@crookcounty.k12.or.us

Crook County Online Option

Natalie Eberhard

(541) 416-6900 x3157

natalie.eberhard@crookcounty.k12.or.us

 

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