Topics discussed at Oregon’s first ‘Healthy Schools Reopening Council’ meeting

MEDFORD, Ore.– “We only expected it to be for a little moment, not for the whole rest of the year,” said Yosalin Arenas Alvarez, rising senior at South Medford High School.

17-year-old Yosalin Arenas Alvarez always dreamt of her senior year at South Medford High School.

But she never envisioned a pandemic would restrict she and her peers from the experience.

“Even though we love to go to school and be able to prepare ourselves for the future. It’s also very hard to not have those little things that motivate you to go to school,” Arenas said.

What school will look like this Fall is something Alvarez and other members of the ‘Healthy Schools Reopening Council’ discussed with Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday.

Even as a straight ‘A’ student, Alvarez says working from home at the end of last school year was far from easy.

She hopes, come Fall, it’s not her only option.

“I know for me personally it’s really hard because I had to take care of my little sibling and I had to guide her through her schooling and guide myself through my schooling. And just take care of all the housework because both my parents have full-time jobs,” she said.

Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris also sat in on the governor’s meeting.

She says equity during distance learning remains a huge concern for members of the council.

“That puts a lot of disparity between the haves and the have nots. The kids who are in poverty. Again, kids who might have a non-traditional family. There’s just a lot of disadvantages in my opinion to kids not going back full time,” Morris said.

Childcare is another issue, Morris says, since there were already significant shortages before the pandemic.

Now, many parents say they have to get back to work.

“Many childcare cares closed, they had to or they were operating in half capacity and they haven’t come back. So, you take a situation that was already bad and now you make it dire,” she said.

Both Alvarez and Morris say they want students back at school full-time, however, understand this is a complex issue and there’s no easy fix.

“I’m hoping that even though some of our memories may be taken away, we gain new ones by supporting and helping each other out,” said Alvarez

The council has three more meetings coming up.

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