An increase in COVID-19 case rates has led Roseburg Public Schools to delay the Nov. 16 return to in-person learning for fourth and fifth graders in the district, the district announced Tuesday.
The delay to a new target date of Dec. 7 comes as newly released state metrics Monday moves Douglas County schools closer to being forced to return to distance learning.
“This is definitely not the trend we wanted to see happening in our County,” read the daily update from the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team on Monday. “The exponential growth in unrelated cases is affecting a wide number of schools, care centers and workplaces in all parts of the county. We can’t even begin to estimate the economic and loss of school/work impact to households, schools, families, and workplaces with the number of people in isolation and quarantine right now.”
Oregon Health Authority released the latest data Monday, which showed Douglas County had 108.7 cases per 100,000 people during the two-week period ending on Nov. 7 and the test positivity rating during that time was 9.1%.
In a letter from Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon, the district said the return to in-person learning will depend on the district meeting the threshold for COVID-19 metrics (50 to 100 cases per 100,000.) The district plans to cautiously maintain K-3 learning at all schools and continue remote learning for all middle school and high school grades through Jan. 22.
This means Douglas County schools are now in the Transition model described in the Oregon Department of Education’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance. Under the Transition model, schools will need to consider transitioning to distance learning and consult with their local health authority.
Under the state guidance released on Oct. 30, there are four different models counties can fall under when it comes to reopening schools; On-Site, On-Site and Distance Learning, Transition, and Distance Learning.
Douglas County met the metrics for the On-Site and Distance Learning model for the past three consecutive weeks. In that particular model, schools can bring elementary school students — up to sixth grade — back to school.
Roseburg Public Schools is planning to bring fourth and fifth graders back to in-person learning on Nov. 16. The school district can continue with that plan, because under the state metrics, a school has two weeks from meeting the metrics to plan for the return of students.
If the county had remained in the On-Site and Distance Learning model and schools were able to limit the transmission of COVID-19 for four weeks, middle and high schoolers could have been brought back into the classroom as well. Under the Transition model, schools will not be able to start in-person learning for middle and high schoolers.
If the county case rate goes down, to between 50-99 cases per 100,000 over a two-week period, middle and high school students could be brought back on Dec. 14. If the case rate drops to less than 50 cases per 100,000 over a two-week period, all students will be able to attend school in-person.
Most schools in Douglas County are currently offering in-person, on-site instruction to all students.
If the county case rate goes up to more than 200 cases per 100,000 people or the test positivity rate increase to 10% for a two-week period, most schools will need to implement distance learning. There are a few exceptions to this, such as small remote schools and limited instruction for special groups of students.
The test positivity in Douglas County had been under 5% for months, but spiked to 9.1% for the latest two-week period according to the health department.
Douglas County spokesperson Tamara Howell said the increase in test positivity was indicative of the recent spike in cases.