SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — A growing voice of teachers, school staff and parents are urging state leaders to put the brakes on plans to reopen schools in Oregon as thousands of educators and parents are getting behind a plan to set a statewide bar for reopening.
The group Oregon For A Safe Return to Campus wants the Oregon Department of Education to support a guideline that would require no new COVID cases in a county for 2 weeks before schools in that county would reopen for in-person learning.
Hundreds of supporters in Salem held a socially distanced rally in their cars Monday to urge Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority to support the benchmark.
Fifth-grade teacher Julisa Rodriquez said there will be trauma and a mental health effect if “someone loses a classmate or a teacher” because of in-person instruction.
Another teacher, Julieera Bera, said, “Distance education was hard. We had a week to get it, put together. Knowing now would help us plan better.”
But there is also a big push to get schools open.
There is concern children are already behind academically after schools closed last March and also that they are struggling socially and emotionally with the isolation.
Last week the CDC urged reopening for those reasons: “The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in area with low community transmission and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.”
But it’s that low risk in areas with low community transmission that worries many at the rally, especially those in high-COVID areas like Marion County.
Owen Courtney Bera, who is 11, put it this way: “If I do sports or play with my friend it’d be harder, but I know if I do I could get sick.”
The latest numbers from OHA show more than 2000 kids between the ages of 1-10 have gotten the coronavirus. That is 14% of the total known cases.
As of now, it’s up to school districts to decide when and how to start school — online only, in person or a mix. There is a growing trend from many districts to at least start the school year online only at this point.
There will be new guidelines for schools coming from state health and education leaders perhaps as soon as Tuesday.
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