Oregon Gov. relaxes Covid-19 school metrics for in-person instruction

MEDFORD, Ore. — “Covid is here to stay. It is here to stay for the foreseeable future,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

Close to 130,000 students could soon be returning to the classroom after the Oregon Department of Education updated its Covid-19 metrics for in-person instruction.

That, as the state announces a record high of 600 coronavirus cases on Friday.

“Too many of our students haven’t seen the middle of a classroom since March,” said Gov. Brown.

Governor Kate Brown says the state has learned more about the virus and distance learning over the past 7 months.

She says the benefits of in-person learning for students now takes priority.

“What we as a country have learned is that it’s essentially impossible to work from home and teach your kids a full day’s worth of school work at the same time,” she said.

Aside from forcing many parents to leave the workforce, Governor Brown says distance learning has left low income and undeserved communities struggling.

“Not every home in every county has reliable access to the internet or learning devices for all children. And unfortunately, too many students don’t have a stable or safe place to call home,” said Gov. Brown.

Some key changes to the ODE metrics include:

  1. A clear set of reachable targets for communities to strive for.
  2. Additional time for schools to transition between in-person and distance learning models.
  3. Increased access to in-person instruction at the elementary level.
  4. A two week “look back” at the metrics data, rather than one week at a time over a three week period.
  5. It also removes the state positivity rate in favor of *county positivity rates.

Still, Governor Brown says the vast majority of students will not be returning class.

“We are making adjustments to the metrics based on our best judgment of science. They are not radical shifts,” she said.

While many parents may approve the governor’s announcement, it’s facing backlash from the largest teachers union in the state.

The Oregon Education Association said in a statement:

“The governor’s decision to hastily implement new, relaxed, metrics will only serve to further disrupt education for students, families, and educators throughout Oregon – allowing districts to bring students back to the classroom before it is safe to do so.”

Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority, however, saying kids are not a major driver of outbreaks across Oregon or nationwide even in school settings that are open.

“What’s really clear is schools are not super-spreader events,” said Gov. Brown.

As the state continues to make adjustments to the metrics, Governor Brown says there is no way to move forward without zero-risk.

“But we can be thoughtful and we can be smart about minimizing risk so we can live our lives as safely as possible,” she said.

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