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Confusion over Covid-19 guidelines for in-person instruction

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — “With guidance that size there’s the opportunity to interpret it… and interpret it incorrectly,” said Kristin Hosfelt, spokeswoman for Grants Pass School District 7.

This month, the Oregon Health Authority says Josephine County saw 32 coronavirus cases in one week.

That number leading Grants Pass School District 7 to inform parents this week, in-person instruction for Kindergarten through 3rd grade, may no longer be possible.

They were mistaken.

“Within [the guidance],  it says that once there are more than 20 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population, districts need to plan for transitioning to CDL (comprehensive distance learning),” said Hosfelt.

Because Grants Pass School District 7 already brought K through 3 kids back into the classroom, she says the state guideline doesn’t apply to them.

“If we had all of our students back on campus and our case rates were what they were, we would have to plan to transition to CDL,” she said.

The state guidance also confused neighboring Three Rivers School District.

“Understanding the metrics and how they impact schools has been a journey for all districts,” said superintendent Dave Valenzuela, Three Rivers School District.

A full transition to comprehensive distance learning, Hosfelt and Valenzuela says, can only be caused by one thing.

“As long as we don’t have outbreaks in our schools we can continue to offer in person instruction,” said Hosfelt.

It’s a scenario both districts hope never happens.

“It would be a hard switch because we want our kids in-person, we want that relationship with them,” said Robbie Henderson, principal at Riverside Elementary School.

So far, Henderson says feedback from in-person learning from students, parents, and faculty has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They come out and they’re ready to go get their temperature checked and get in their classroom because they want to be here and they’re loving it,” he said.

Valenzuela agrees.

“Having them in-person really provides us with that opportunity to guide them through the educational process and their journey as young learners,” he said.

Currently, OHA says there are no outbreaks in Josephine County contributing to the rise in case numbers.

An outbreak at a school, the agency says, would mean 2 or more students get infected with the virus.

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