Portland, Ore. — Friday morning, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced new metrics for Oregon schools.
The Governor’s office releasing information saying the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority is releasing updated metrics for returning to in-person instruction, accounting for the data from school districts across the country that has become available since Oregon first issued school metrics in August. In communities that meet the new metrics for COVID-19 spread, additional students will be able to return to the classroom, with schools following the Ready Schools, Safe Learners health and safety protocols established by ODE and OHA to mitigate infection risks. However, in many communities across Oregon, more work must be done to contain the spread of this disease before students will be able to return to the classroom.
The changes include:
Measurement period, 2-week average: County metrics will be measured for one, 2-week period instead of three 1-week periods. Particularly in small counties with low case counts, a small change in the number of cases in one week could have prevented schools from opening under the previous metrics.
Remove statewide positivity metric: Holding all districts to a statewide positivity metric has led some schools to remain closed even when community metrics are at safer level—now only a county’s positivity rate will be used.
Elementary School (K-6): Elementary schools provide the best opportunity for maintaining small cohorts. This group of students also has the most difficulty with comprehensive distance learning and individual study—young students are still learning to read, and can still have difficulty reading to learn. Under previous metrics, only K-3 students were allowed to return to school first, meaning that elementary schools could reopen in some districts but 4th, 5th, and 6th graders could not return to their school. Under new guidance, OHA and ODE have determined that students in grade K-6 can return so long as strict protocols are followed and with consultation with local public health.
New metrics for in-person instruction: A full guidance document from ODE explaining the new metrics for in-person instruction is available above.
Local decision-making: No metrics can account for all situations, particularly in a state as large and diverse as Oregon. In addition, school districts need time to plan to shift from distance learning to in-person instruction, or back if necessary. Under the new school metrics, school districts, in consultation with local public health, will make final decisions about when schools can move to in-person instruction. ODE and OHA will advise school districts during that process, and will confirm with school districts when their county has satisfied the required metrics for the return to in-person instruction. ODE, OHA, and Oregon OSHA will work together to ensure that school districts are meeting state standards for reducing risk of transmission of COVID-19 in learning and working environment for students and staff.
With the new metrics, the following counties are eligible for a full K – 12 in-person learning:
Baker, Clatsop, Curry, Gilliam, Grant, Hood River, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lincoln, Sherman, Tillamook, Union and Wheeler.
The following counties are eligible for a K – 6 return to in-person learning:
Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Deschutes, Polk, Wallowa and Wasco.
Counties not ready yet include:
Crook, Harney, Jackson, Lane, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Umatilla, Washington and Yamhill.