Schools prepare for in-person learning, waiting on state for updated guidelines

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. — Schools in the region are working to bring students back to class for in-person learning starting as early as next month.

Following Governor Brown’s announcement of switching school metrics from ‘mandatory’ to ‘advisory’ starting January 1st, the Medford School District says planning is underway.

The district tells me communicating with Jackson County Public Health is essential.

Switching in-person learning metrics from ‘mandatory’ to ‘advisory’ means moving to in-person instruction will be decided locally, district by district, school by school.

“Metrics are moving into advisory, [that] does not mean they go away, we have to honor what’s happening in our county locally and we need to center our decisions on safety,” said communications coordinator for MSD, Natalie Hurd. She says the district is working on plans with Jackson County Public Health, along with a feedback survey right now.

“We want to make sure all voices are honored, and so, we will be putting out a survey to our families and staff just gauging comfort levels around returning to in-person instruction,” Hurd said.

With only 15% of the student body able to go to class for limited in-person instruction each week, the district has been one of the most vocal in southern Oregon about a return to in person learning — spearheading a resolution to the governor, with community signatures, asking for such a shift.

Hurd says this will take time.

In a statement released by the Three Rivers School District superintendent, Dave Valenzuela, echoed that sentiment, saying a return to in person learning will not be immediate.

Valenzuela wrote, “TRSD will still be setting very high standards for staff and student safety… we have a lot to plan for.”

Both districts say a return will prioritize the youngest students first.

In a statement to the Oregon Department of Education and OHA, Governor Kate Brown said she hopes schools can get elementary students back in the classroom by February 15th.

“We’re looking forward to digging in and doing this work and figuring out how to improve our education for students while doing our best to keep everyone safe,” said Hurd.

Governor Brown says the OHA will partner with schools for rapid covid-19 testing. At this time, it’s unclear how many schools will get to utilize this resource.

NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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