Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced that districts and schools will decide when to reopen classes in the state. The governor stated in a letter addressed to directors of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Department of Education (ODE) that the state will only take advisory steps and will not mandate schools to stay closed or reopen their doors to learners.
“From now, districts and schools will be responsible for deciding when in-person classes will begin, each district will be allowed to make its own decisions, same goes for each of our schools,” Brown wrote on Wednesday.
The governor explained that the reason for the new directive is to allow more students to resume in-person classes come January 2021. She also said that the school metrics system earlier adopted in the state will henceforth be advisory and not mandatory. The governor said that schools must ensure that all safety protocols are duly followed if they wish to reopen their doors, Oregonlive reports.
Governor Brown stated that stakeholders in the educational sector such as teachers, parents, and students should be a part of the decision-making process. She explained that the reason for this is to ensure that the schools make appropriate decisions that would be best for their students and other members of their communities. The governor cited other states that only use the advisory metrics as reasons why she issued the new directive.
“Just as our neighbors to the north have shown, the new directive will not reduce the schools’ adherence to COVID-19 protocols,” Brown stated. “Schools must make their decisions only after carefully considering the rate at which the virus is spreading in their communities and how prepared their students, parents, and members of staff are, for school reopening.”
The governor also stated in the letter that she expects more schools, especially elementary schools, to resume in-person learning come February 15, 2021.
John Larson, president of the Oregon Education Association (OEA), reacted negatively to the governor’s directive. Larson explained in a statement that Oregon’s educational sector currently needs clear-cut instructions and not Governor Brown’s open-ended directive. He stated that the governor was previously advocating for the resumption of pupils when it is safe for that to happen, but her new directive will spur schools to resume without careful consideration of safety measures.
In a press conference, Brown advised that teachers and other workers in schools should be considered as essential workers. Brown explained that this will make them eligible for vaccinations during the next phase of the process in the state. The governor asked the OHA and ODE to review the state’s current metrics and make adjustments where necessary by January 19, 2021.