Gov. Kate Brown

Gov. Kate Brown released Tuesday, July 28, new metrics to guide school district decisions about when it is safe to resume in-person instruction, and when a transition to comprehensive distance learning is necessary.

Brown said closing schools in the spring was one of the most difficult decisions she made during the pandemic. She uses science and data as her guide. There is clear evidence that students receiving education in the classroom is better for students.

“It fosters our students’ social and mental wellbeing, their overall health and often their physical safety,” Brown said. “I know that most parents agree.”

This is a highly contagious virus, Brown said. American Academy of Pediatrics is clear that only with safeguards in place and low cases, can schools open for in-person instruction.

“The plan each public district adopts for the coming school year is, and remains, a local decision,” Brown said. “And yet, in the time since then, the virus has continued to spread and we must follow clear public health metrics to know when and where it is safe for school to convene inside school buildings.”

These requirements will give schools and communities the opportunity to make sound decisions, Brown added. Studies show younger students, kids under 10, have lower rates of illness than older children and adults.

“Overall, these requirements align with recommendations from both public health experts and educators,” Brown said.

Doctor Dean Sidelinger of Oregon Health Authority said some places have reopened schools safely, such as in Denmark and Germany. There is no simple statewide answer for Oregon. School district may offer limited onsite learning for students with disabilities.

“Oregon public health officials have developed transparent evidence-based metrics to help school boards and school districts make local decisions based on local conditions to determine how they can safely reopen school to in-person instruction,” Sidelinger said.

The metrics for in-person instruction or hybrid instruction model for all grade levels states the statewide test positivity rate needs to be at or below 5 percent over seven days for three weeks in a row. In the county, there needs to be 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people over seven days and a 5 percent or less test positivity rate. There needs to be a trend of three weeks of decreasing cases.

“Schools will provide in-person education for students in Kindergarten through third grade,” Sidelinger said. “It’s expected that these in-class options will be offered to the extent possible under the reopening plans.”

The metrics for K-3 include fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 over seven days and test positivity of 5 percent or less over seven days.

Sidelinger said younger students get the virus at lower rates.

“We know that opening schools to in-person instruction is not a one way journey,” Sidelinger said. “If we see increasing cases in the community, it may be time for schools to consider moving back to comprehensive distance learning.”

In-Person Instruction or Hybrid Instruction Model: All Grade Levels and School Districts

In order to resume in-person instruction in any form, including hybrid instruction models when students are only sometimes in the classroom, the following conditions must be met:

County Metrics (Must be Met Three Weeks in a Row)

• 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people over 7 days

• Test positivity of 5% or less over 7 days

Statewide Metrics (Must be Met Three Weeks in a Row)

• Test positivity of 5% or less over 7 days

In-Person Instruction or Hybrid Instruction Model: K-3 Students and Remote and Rural School Districts

Under some conditions, in-person instruction can resume only for K-3 students and remote and rural school districts with fewer than 100 students. The following conditions must be met for in-person instruction for K-3 students or for remote and rural students:

• Fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 over 7 days

• Test positivity of 5% or less over 7 days

• COVID-19 is not actively spreading in the school community

• School districts are in compliance with sections 1-3 of Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance

Transition Planning for Comprehensive Distance Learning

For school districts where in-person instruction is occurring during the school year, planning for a switch to comprehensive distance learning should take place, including training for staff and notification of the community, if one or both conditions are met:

• 20 cases or greater per 100,000 over 7 days

• Test positivity of 7.5% or greater over 7 days

Comprehensive Distance Learning

All school districts must implement comprehensive distance learning if the following conditions are met:

• 30 or more cases per 100,000 over 7 days

• Test positivity of 10% or greater over 7 days

Based on these metrics, many, if not most, school districts will begin school in the fall by focusing on online distance learning or will have a hybrid model that combines distance learning and in-person instruction.

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