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New Details posted at 7 p.m. July 27:

Governor Kate Brown will hold a press availability Tuesday, July 28, to discuss new COVID-19 health and safety metrics for school districts.

Brown will be joined by Director Colt Gill of the Oregon Department of Education, Director Miriam Calderon of the Oregon Early Learning Division, and Dr. Dean Sidelinger from the Oregon Health Authority.

Oregon school districts are currently developing plans for the 2020-21 school year using ODE’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance.

The Oregon Health Authority, working with the Oregon Department of Education and the Early Learning Division, has developed a set of COVID-19 metrics for school district operating decisions for the fall. The metrics to be used are based on the number of COVID-19 cases and the COVID-19 positivity rate per capita––both on a county and statewide level––setting requirements for when it is safe for in-person instruction to resume, and when the level of COVID-19 spread in a community would warrant a transition to comprehensive distance learning.

Based on these metrics, with the increasing spread of COVID-19 in both rural and urban Oregon this summer, many, if not most, Oregon students live in school districts that will begin school in the fall by focusing on online distance learning or will have a hybrid model that combines remote online education and in-person classroom time.

Districts across the state have been developing plans to provide high quality education to all students, including students of color, low-income students, students experiencing disabilities, and rural students––all students who were disproportionately impacted by the institution of comprehensive distance education last spring.

With more time for school districts to develop a planned response to COVID-19 for the coming school year, Oregon schools will be expected to work to address the diverse needs of students and their families and provide the best possible education for every Oregon student.

Previous Chief coverage posted at 12:45 p.m. July 27:

An Oregon group is calling for the state to keep schools closed until the COVID-19 pandemic slows considerably.

New School Year

Clatskanie Middle/High School is set to reopen this fall under strict pandemic prevention guidelines. No word yet if this latest call to keep Oregon schools closed will impact that opening plan.

Oregon Safe Return to Schools members include teachers, school staff, families and students, who were scheduled to rally at the state capital building in Salem Monday, July 27, to voice their concerns.

The group's Facebook page reads:

"We are Oregon educators, school staff, parents, students, and concerned individuals who demand a safe return to campus. We refuse to return to campus until our counties report no new cases of COVID-19 for at least 14 days. Until then, we demand that our students and school staff have adequate access to all necessary technology to resume distance learning. Upon return, we demand adequate supplies, personnel, and facilities to safely share space on campus and react aggressively to any resurgence of COVID-19."

The Chief contacted the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) for a response to the group's concerns. ODE's communications director Marc Siegel said school districts make determinations about what instructional model to use in collaboration with local public health authority and other partners.

"ODE and OHA are coming out with a set of criteria in coming days that will help school districts understand the local impacts from COVID-19 so that they can take those impacts into consideration as they make their decision," Siegel said.

The St. Helens School District Board of Directors is set to discuss the issue at its regularly scheduled public meeting Wednesday, July 29. The Chief also contacted the Scappoose, Clatskanie and Rainier School Districts for comment. We are waiting for responses from those school officials.

In an earlier published interview, Clatskanie School District Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said the district school board had agreed to open schools this fall for all students who wish to return to school.

Elementary students will attend Monday -Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday will be reserved for planning and working with students that choose our on-line option. Middle/High School students will attend from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.

In that same published account, Rainier school officials said they were still assembling their plans.

"I want to be sure that we have multiple options available for parents so that no matter people’s situation, we can meet their needs,” Rainier School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Joseph Hattrick said.

Join the conversation. Do you agree that schools should not open until the pandemic cases slow significantly? Post your comments on this story and follow develops here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.

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