SOUTHERN OR.- At the end of October, Governor Kate Brown changed the state’s COVID-19 metrics for in-person learning. The metric change put more focus on individual county rates of COVID-19 infection instead of statewide cases.
That change allowed some school districts to get the go-ahead to bring back more students.
“It was like Christmas morning this morning,” said Mazama High School Principal Michael Schaefer of the return of students.
For Klamath County and Three Rivers school districts, Monday was like a second first day of school.
Klamath County School District welcomed back 4th through 12th graders to the classroom. Schaefer says the change has been drastic but not unwelcome.
“It’s just strange to go from no kids to ‘There’s 375 of them! And now they’re here!’,” he said. Schafer says the staff aren’t the only ones thrilled to be back to school.
In a survey taken earlier this Fall, Schafer says high schoolers expressed their struggles with at-home learning.
“Overwhelmingly the response was “When do we get to come back? I’m not doing well being at home. I don’t like this Zoom thing and I don’t want to do this anymore.'”
Schaefer says the school felt more prepared for the return by learning from rural schools that had already returned to in-person instruction before them.
“They got to come back a little earlier so listening to what they learned about separate entry points and how to release the kids and where you move them to helped us be totally prepared,” he explained.
But for other administrations, the return of students wasn’t that big of a change. In Three Rivers School District in Josephine County, kindergarten through 3rd grade was already doing in-person classes. The district is adding fourth and fifth graders this week.
“All of the jitters we had for bringing kids back when it first started, we felt we had worked all those things out and we knew exactly what we needed to do,” said Alicia Timbs, principal of Fort Vannoy Elementary in Grant’s Pass. She says teachers have learned a lot since the beginning of the pandemic.
“It felt like it was going to be a little more stressful than it is. But when we get here, we wear masks, we wash our hands, and other than that its just business as usual,” Timbs said.
And it’s just as agreeable for the students.
“They all agree they would rather wear a mask and be at school than not wear their mask and be home,” she said.
Principal Timbs said the biggest obstacle of the return is making sure they have enough playground equipment for students during recess.
Grace Smith is a reporter for NBC5 News. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of the University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl.
Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it’s the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.