So. Oregon school districts react to new Covid-19 metrics

MEDFORD, Ore. — “We as a system, we know that the best place for our students is with our teachers in terms of school stuff and we want to be there,” said Bret Champion, Medford School District superintendent.

Days after Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced new metrics to bring roughly 130,000 students back to the classroom, some local school districts are frustrated they’re left out of the conversation.

“We are not able to come back. We are not able to move our elementary back. All we’re able to do is take small cohorts of kids for two hours at a time in very limited capacity,” said Champion.

Champion says adult decisions are negatively impacting student learning.

With Jackson County’s case numbers hitting record highs last week, the district is in the red zone meaning in-person instruction isn’t an option.

“We have got to get to the point where masking becomes a regular thing that we do. It’s not an option. It’s just something that we do,” he said.

Other southern Oregon school districts are jumping at the opportunity to bring students back and already planning for the future.

“Many, many of our teachers and families are very anxious to get the kids back, so we’re really excited about the possibility,” said Paul Hillyer, Klamath Falls City School District superintendent.

Hillyer says the district hopes to get kids back in the classroom as early as next week, if their Covid-19 positivity rate allows it.

That number, he says, has to be under 8 percent for two weeks before re-opening.

“The hope, of course, is that the information is going to be positive and that we start K through 3 this Thursday and K through 6 next Thursday,” said Hillyer.

As for the Medford School District, the hope is that one day they can meet the metrics to re-open.

“Social distancing is something we’ve got to lean into. We know from our health department, social gatherings are a really problem,” said Champion.

But Champion says it’s going to take everyone’s cooperation and commitment.

“Because until we start to do that as adults, our students are not going to get back into school. And friends and neighbors. That is not something we can live with,” he said.

The Klamath County School District announced on Monday afternoon they are bringing students back for in-person hybrid instruction on Monday, November 16th.

The Grants Pass and Three Rivers School Districts both say meetings are ongoing this week before they make a decision on when they’ll bring students back to the classroom.

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