PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As school districts discuss and debate whether, when and how students should return to in-person instruction, there is “a lot of concern” about any return in Beaverton.
Some teachers are worried about going back in person partially because Gov. Brown’s December 23 decision was sudden and partially because they’re concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, said Beaverton Education Association President Sara Schmitt.
“There is a lot of concern about coming back in person, in a lot of forms,” Schmitt told KOIN 6 News, “knowing how much the virus is still spreading in our communities.”
By January 19, the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority will notify school districts about their thoughts on re-opening. Gov. Brown set a target date of February 15 for more students to return to in-person learning.
Schmitt said the governor’s announcement “caused a lot of anxiety. In-person instruction is the best way for us to teach students, but this sudden announcement has caused concern because we don’t have a plan.”
There is some hope among teachers because of the vaccine, she said. Oregon health officials told KOIN 6 News the plan is to have teachers in the 1B group for vaccinations.
“Having educators prioritized is a big positive for us. I know there’s a lot of urgency among educators to get the vaccine,” Schmitt said.
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Governor Brown’s office said vaccinating educators and school staff is a top priority but they haven’t yet released the prioritization phases beyond Phase 1A.
The plan over the next several weeks continues to be to drive down the infection rates across the state.
“As they have throughout the pandemic, schools must still follow Oregon’s health and safety guidance, such as the use of masks, physical distancing in classrooms, quickly identifying and isolating any COVID-19 cases that do enter a school, and limiting interactions between groups of students,” Brown’s office said. “Moving forward, decisions to reopen schools will be made at the local level with the discretion to apply state metrics to local context, in concert with guidance from local public health — and it is incredibly important that school districts engage in a rigorous local process involving educators, students, and families around local reopening decisions, to make sure they are making the right decisions for their community.”
The issue has deeply divided parents and the community. At a protest over the weekend, one parent told KOIN 6 News she didn’t want her kids back in a classroom yet.
“I do not think it’s safe right now for kids to go back,” this parent said. “A vaccine is in sight. If we can be patient, than we can beat this. But if we rush into this, there will be lives lost.”