Governor Kate Brown held a press conference today to unveil updated metrics that will allow more Oregon students to return to in-person learning. She led off by saying that waiting for zero risk is not the path forward.
Brown, along with state health and education officials, argued the updates are necessary because the benefits students gain from in-person education in schools outweigh the risks of the coronavirus. She said the state must prioritize getting our students into the classroom for in-person instruction.
Brown said the new metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, and they bring Oregon in sync with the standards of other states like California. The new metrics take effect immediately and potentially allow close to 130,000 Oregon students to return to some form of in-person learning with the emphasis on getting grade school age children back first. This will not happen overnight but schools now have the tools to plan for it.
She cautioned that the vast majority of our students will not be able to return to class.
Colt Gill made mention of a recent call with student Tribal leaders – one student said he gets by in school by staying after class and asking teacher for help. But now, when a zoom class ends, there is no staying behind. The class is just over. This was one example that was offered as to the importance of getting students back into the classroom.
Students will be organized into cohorts that will increase the ability to maintain safety and control outbreaks. However, everyone in a cohort will be sent home for a 14 day quarantine if someone tests positive so families and communities need to be ready for this as it can happen on a moment’s notice.
According to the ODE, updates to the statewide metrics include:
- State Positivity Rate will no longer be a factor. County positivity rates will be based on a two week average instead of a county needing to stay below a threshold for three weeks.
- Instead of an exception allowing higher county case numbers for grades K-3 only, grades 4 and 5 (along with 6, if it’s a K-6 elementary school) can reopen more easily.
- A clear set of reachable targets for communities to meet.
- Acknowledgement that Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance’s strong public health protocols in structured settings like schools, can greatly reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
- Additional time for schools to transition between in-person and distance learning models.
- Increased access to in-person instruction at the elementary level.
- A two Week “Look Back” at the Metrics Data rather than one week at a time over a three-week period.
Click here to see a recording of the press conference.
New guidelines regarding case rates and positive test percentage:
New guidelines group K-6 together instead of just K-3. Here is where Oregon counties currently fall under the new guidelines: