As we consider the metrics set forth by the state that need to be met before schools can open to in-person learning, I would like to think that the intent of these metrics was they would allow schools to reopen safely, as soon as possible.
However, the result is they are threatening the very fabric of our children’s education, their mental and emotional health, as well as hugely decreasing equity.
The children and people Oregonians pride themselves on serving – children of color, homeless children, children living in poverty, children of immigrants, and women in the workforce – are suffering the most.
Several large school districts in Oregon (Portland, Beaverton and Salem/Keizer) have announced they will not return to in-person learning until January or February. This will result in children who struggle with distance learning having lost an entire year of education.
Distance learning extended:Salem-Keizer Public Schools extends distance learning through Feb. 1
These decisions are based on the fact that districts know there is no way they will be able to meet current metrics before that time. Unless something changes, it is unlikely that any child in the Willamette Valley will attend in-person school this school year.
Despite the endless hours that teachers are putting in, children are frustrated, not learning, shutting down and hating school.
Some are just giving up completely. I saw a tweet from a senior in Oregon who had spent hours trying to do an assignment he did not understand and was incredibly discouraged. No one under 18 has died from Covid-19 in Oregon, yet there were several teenage suicides in just the past few weeks.
Before the metrics were put into place, districts had worked tirelessly all summer to ensure students could return to school safely, following ODE’s guidelines. Unfortunately, under current metrics, only 6% of Oregon’s K12 students are receiving any type of in-person instruction, including those attending private schools.
Governor Kate Brown has said she is looking at reviewing the metric regarding the entire state needing to be under 5% positivity in order for schools to reopen. However, if Oregon removes this metric, it will not help unless another metric is revised.
Coronavirus in Oregon:New COVID-19 projections show Oregon cases could make large jump soon
The metrics requiring a county to average under 30 cases a week for 3 weeks before grades K-3 can open, (per 100,000) or 10 cases per week for 3 weeks for grades 4-12, are not possible for most communities to obtain.
No other state has such extreme requirements. Washington’s requirements sound similar, but are actually guidelines, not requirements, leaving the ultimate decision up to individual districts.
Oregon’s metrics do not take into account nursing home, workplace, or college outbreaks – all of which increase county case counts. As a result, children will not be able to return to school.
The time has come for Oregonians to start putting children first and give control back to districts, who can safely determine what is best for their students and teachers. This has been done safely all over our country. It is time for Oregon to do the same.
Monmouth resident Janica Duncan has a degree in elementary education from Brigham Young University and is a licensed substitute teacher in Oregon. She is the founder of the Facebook group Let Oregon Learn! You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org