Oregon schools close for rest of academic year

Coronavirus

"I know how hard this is for every single Oregonian"

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s schools will stay closed for the rest of the academic year to ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff s the state continues to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday.

“I know how hard this is for every single Oregonian. I thank you for your sacrifice,” she said. “I wish I could make it easier for everyone, I wish I could eliminate the frustration everyone feels.

“But the best thing we can do for the health of our children is to give everyone certainty by announcing the decision to close in-person classes for the remainder of the school year.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at a press conference closing schools for the rest of the academic year during the coronavirus pandemic, April 8, 2020 (KOIN)

In March, ahead of her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, Brown announced that schools would be closed for at least two weeks, and then extended the closure through the end of April. By the end of March, the state’s education department announced it was considering “Distance Learning” in the event schools could not come back for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.

“To all the moms and dads, I can’t imagine what you’re up against,” she said. “I can’t imagine it’s a surprise to everyone that we’ve really been struggling at how to provide educational guidance during these extraordinary times.”

Brown said she knows “there is a lot of anxiety about how we will move forward” and that all seniors who were on track to graduate will be able to do so. She said this was also to keep Oregon’s graduation rates on track.

Vulnerable students are at the forefront of her mind when making policy decisions, she said. The closure is also extended to post-secondary education, where distance learning is also mandatory.

Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill also spoke during the briefing and said the state’s guidance provides recommendations for distance learning for all Oregon schools.

Gill reiterated support for graduating seniors and said they do not know if graduation events will be able to take place.

When asked about ending her Stay At Home order, Brown said “we do not know” when businesses will be able to reopen. She said she had a cold and that’s why she had not been seen by the public in a few weeks. She has not been re-tested for COVID-19.

OHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dana Hargunani was also at the briefing.

Portland Public Schools responds

PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero released a statement following Brown’s announcement on Wednesday:

“We are glad to finally have this guidance from Governor Brown and ODE. Given this decision to close school campuses for the remainder of the year, and the guidance related to distance learning and revised graduation requirements, our focus will continue to be on the roll-out of PPS-HD, our home-based distance learning efforts to continue serving students.  

All students, especially high school seniors, should stay tuned for further details and next steps related to course credits and grades. Please know that our guiding principle is to support students in meeting academic milestones. I want to acknowledge that our high school seniors, in particular, are missing traditions and milestone events right now. We will continue to support every one of you toward graduation and your post-secondary transition, and hope to find creative ways to acknowledge and celebrate your many years of hard work. 

School districts have just received Graduation Pathways 2020 from the Oregon Department of Education; it outlines the specific guidance we will be observing for our high school seniors. To be clear, with the exception of seniors who have all of the required credits for graduation, student engagement and learning for the 2019-2020 school year has not ended. The remainder of the school year will continue to transition from in-person classroom instruction to instruction and support for students through PPS-HD, our home-based distance learning program that we launched this week. Led by our dedicated educators, we will continue to connect regularly with students and to provide continuous learning opportunities for them.

Going forward, we will be centrally focused on the social emotional health of our students and in providing them access to essential services. We will continue to serve meals Monday-Friday every week, and if your student needs a laptop computer, they can pick one up this week or next; you can find laptop distribution dates, times and locations by clicking here. Information about all of our supports and resources can be found at pps.net/coronavirus.” 

Parents-turned-teachers

Brown’s order has frustrated many parents stuck juggling work and childcare who hoped to eventually send their kids back to school. Instead, they’ll continue wearing the school teacher hat through the end of the now-canceled school year.

“A lot of my colleagues don’t have the luxury of having a partner that can stay at home fulltime,” said Uma Borate, parent to a first grader and a pre-schooler.

Borate said some of the technology kids have to use at home can add to frustrations.

“I’m hearing from a lot of other parents that that’s been a challenge, you know, downloading the software, navigating these different portals,” she said. “Not everybody has access to a computer dedicated to give to their children or a computer at all.”

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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