All students in Roseburg Public Schools will be able to return to school on Jan. 25, the school board decided during Wednesday’s meeting.
Nearly 300 people attended the virtual meeting to hear what decision the board would make, and more than 20 people offered public comment on the topic of reopening schools to in-person instruction.
“Schools are not a superspreader,” parent Rachel Nielsen said. “It’s a well-known fact schools that are open in our area have not been superspreaders. And students that don’t have access to internet, or don’t have support from families — and even those that do truly are struggling.”
Elementary school teachers who had been in the classroom earlier this fall expressed that teaching was done safely.
“I’ve been really impressed with the precautions that we’ve taken to ensure that the students and the teachers are staying healthy,” Sunnyslope Elementary School teacher on special assignment Kristy Hiers said. “Students get COVID or teacher get COVID and being able to quarantine, I feel like, we’ve been able to take care of that. We haven’t seen any spreading within the school district so I feel like the measures that we’ve taken so far as a school district work. I think we can continue to let that work.”
Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon presented the board with three scenarios to bring students back to school. The board voted 5-1 in favor of the second scenario which would bring all students back on Jan. 25, elementary students will be back full time and middle and high school students will be on a hybrid schedule. Board member Charles Lee voted against the motion and board member Steve Patterson was absent.
The hybrid schedule for middle and high schoolers is to continue to follow the state guidance on keeping students safe.
“I feel very fortunate to be here tonight to witness what has occurred regarding reopening and regarding the opinions that have been shared and the passionate feelings that have been felt,” school board member Brandon Bishop said. “I have called Superintendent Cordon more times than he would normally tolerate. I have texted him many times. I have had lots of questions and I’ve discussed matters with lots of people, I have spent a lot of time researching, praying, thinking and hoping for an answer. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer here. I ask that, as we continue to work through challenges ahead, that we do so with patience and grace for those that have different opinions than our own.”
The school board did make it clear that the district will continue to follow all state guidelines and monitor the COVID-19 data.
Roseburg Education Association President Camron Pope said prior to the decision being made that the union would prefer that all grades return to school at the same time and that Jan. 25 would be a good time, because of the school calendar. The new semester at Roseburg schools would start on Jan. 25.
And even though there were teachers in favor of reopening, there were also several teachers who expressed concerns about opening the buildings up to students.
“Lessons can retaught, classes can be retaken, but lives lost are never coming back,” Roseburg High School drama teacher Christina Moroney said.
Moroney was one of five people who spoke out against opening schools this month. There were 18 people who spoke out in favor of reopening.
Lisa Doggett made a tearful plea to reopen schools because of the emotional toll the school closure had on her sixth-grade son.
“He has been in a serious depression with all of this,” she said. “He has had serious thoughts of committing suicide. It is very serious. Part of the reason for this was because of school; he was not able to have that connection, he’s failing all of his classes, and because of that he’s having a very hard struggle.”
Doggett then read part of a suicide note her son wrote out. “I just hate waking up every day and hating myself in my body, and going straight to school and doing nothing all day,” Doggett read while tearing up. “I’m failing all my classes. The last thing I wish before I go is that you take care of my birds.”
Several other speakers also talked about the emotional impact of the closure, the rate of failing students and the struggle not just for students and teachers but for the community as a whole.
In addition to reopening schools, other topics brought up at the board meeting were:
- Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich presented the school board with a proclamation for School Board Recognition Month.
- Approving a seismic project manager at Fremont Middle School has been postponed until next week.
- Chief Operation Officer Cheryl Northam was given signing authority for the purchase of two properties on Selmar Court.