PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown has ordered Oregon school districts to return to some form of in-person learning in the coming weeks.
Brown issued an executive order on Friday directing schools to offer universal access to in-person instruction on or before the weeks of March 29 for K-5 students and April 19 for students in grades 6-12.
After the weeks of March 29 and April 19, all public schools in Oregon will operate under either a fully on-site or a hybrid instructional model when counties meet or exceed Oregon’s advisory COVID-19 metrics.
Brown unveiled her executive order while visiting educators and students at Sitton Elementary School in North Portland. She also outlined the order in a letter to the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education.
Students will have the option to remain in comprehensive distance learning across all districts.
The news of Oregon schools reopening comes nearly a year since Brown ordered them closed as it became clearer the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the U.S.
“Closing schools in Oregon is a decision I will never forget. Parents, educators, school staff, but especially students have come so far while navigating the challenges of this pandemic. Welcoming students back to every school across Oregon will be a milestone worth celebrating,” Brown said.
Currently, an average of one in four students are in Oregon classrooms for a couple of hours each day. Limited in-person instruction is available for kids who need extra help.
When asked what will happen should educators refuse to return to classrooms by the end of March or mid-April, Brown said she’s “confident we will see the majority [of teachers] back.” Several teachers unions, including Portland and Beaverton, are still negotiating working conditions for in-person instruction.
The Oregon Education Association representing teachers around the state issued the statement on Friday:
“From the beginning of this pandemic, Oregon educators have made it clear that they support getting students back into the classroom once it can be done safely. To that end, educators throughout the state have worked tirelessly with local school districts to create in-person instruction plans that will meet the unique needs of their communities while keeping students, families and educators safe. In fact, many schools have already resumed in person instruction and many school districts have already reached, or are very close to reaching, agreements that will bring additional students back to physical classrooms by late March or early April.
We hear, understand, and share the frustration expressed by many in our communities about the uncertainty this pandemic has caused for our public education system, and the long-standing educational disparities that continue to be exacerbated by reopening plans that fail to truly center student equity. We urge our local school districts to continue to work in good faith with local educators to craft plans that will truly serve all of our students, and we are committed to expanding in-person instruction at our schools this spring.”
To date, more than 2,200 Oregonians have died from COVID-19, while more than 156,000 infections have been reported in the state. In the U.S., more than 500,000 have died from COVID-19.