Reopening Oregon schools splits parents, teachers alike


SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of Oregon classrooms has been contentious, dividing people into two camps: those who say it’s time to send students back to in-person learning, and those who say it’s still not safe.

Beaverton mother Tiffany Vargas said she supports Governor Kate Brown’s decision to reopen classrooms for kindergarten through fifth-grade students by March 29th.

“Across the country, some schools have been open full-time, in-person the whole school year so it’s so inequitable,” she said.

Vargas said she also worries about how the school closures may have contributed to the way her fourth grader is developing socially.

“I see … like when they get put in breakout rooms, she doesn’t interact with the other kids – there are some kids that ask the teacher questions and stuff like that … she’s not one to do that,” she said.

Yolanda McKinney is a second-grade teacher at Portland Public Schools and a mother of two school-age children. She believes the decision on whether or not to reopen schools should be left to the districts — which was the plan the governor had originally made a few months ago.

“And now all of the sudden (Gov. Brown) is taking that back,” she said. “You know, that doesn’t value the hard work that everybody has put in. And for parents like myself, I’m left shaking my head going wait a minute. But there was progress being made, progress, being made towards a reopening plan that valued everyone’s voice, not just one.”

McKinney, who is having surgery for her breast cancer in a couple of months, said that although she has already had her vaccine, she still worries about her vulnerability to COVID-19. She worries about other vulnerable people as well.

“If you look at winter break or Christmas break, if you look at Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Super Bowl, you know those larger gathering events, the numbers tend to go up so why would it be that we’re going to open schools the Monday after Spring Break,” she said.

Brown said that families who are still uncomfortable with sending their children to school in person will have the option to continue remote learning until the end of the school year.

Beaverton School District Superintendent Don Grotting told parents in a letter that although Gov. Brown’s plan conflicts with the district’s own April 5 reopening plan, he anticipates that there will be a mechanism that allows some districts to proceed with plans that were already in the works before Brown’s announcement.

“We also anticipate that students will be allowed to remain in full-time Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL), if they choose,” he wrote in the letter.

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