Plan for reopening approved by board
Senior Staff Writer
The Roseburg Public Schools board on Thursday unanimously approved a reopening plan for K-12 students this fall.
The plan, outlined by Superintendent Jared Cordon, has students beginning school remotely on Sept. 8.
Kindergarten through third grade students would return to the classroom Oct. 5. But older kids, from fourth through 12th grades, would learn remotely through the end of the first quarter Nov. 2. At that time, they’d return to the classroom.
Families would also have the option to continue remote learning after those dates.
The schedule could change, as the county has to meet certain state-mandated metrics in order for the school district to hold in-person classes.
For most kids to return to school, the county must have had fewer than 11 cases per week for three straight weeks, and county and state testing must have less than 5% positive tests. The metrics are a little different for the youngest kids and some other specific groups of learners.
Though she did vote for Cordon’s proposed schedule, board member Micki Hall said she didn’t want to create hope of an Oct. 5 opening. She said she doesn’t think that’s realistic. She suggested having all students return after the first semester instead.
Board Chairperson Rebecca Larson said it’s especially important for some children to be in school.
“There are kids in our community that are not in the safest of places. They’re not getting the food that they need, they’re not getting the care that they need, and I guess speaking on behalf of those kids, when we can get them in front of a teacher and with the teacher the sooner the better. And that’s the line we have to walk,” she said.
Board member Rodney Cotton said he trusted school officials to make the best recommendation.
“I want the kids back in school just as soon as we can, as long as it’s safe,” he said.
Board members expressed optimism that distance learning in the fall would go better than it had last spring.
In other business, the board discussed the possibility of bringing a capital improvement bond back to the voters in 2021. Voters narrowly rejected the board’s request for a bond in May.
Several board members said the school district still has the same needs to improve air quality and safety in the buildings, and that the measure had done fairly well, losing by only a few hundred votes.
Board member Howard Johnson said many voters were out of work and some voters were alienated by statements supporters made that were out of sync with the culture of Roseburg.
“I don’t think we as a board handled the rejection very well, so if we go back again too quick we’ll get rejected again,” he said.
Hall noted the large number of undervotes and said she thought many voters missed the measure because it was printed on the back of the ballot.
She recommended waiting until November 2021 and then asking voters again.
“We’ve been elected to take care of our schools and keep our kids safe, and we can’t do that when there are buildings that aren’t,” she said.
The board did not take a vote on whether to push forward a second bond measure.
Larson had begun the meeting with a statement about the board’s commitment to equity.
But at the end of the meeting, the board heard from Jessica Bascom, a Roseburg High School Class of 2002 graduate and member of the Klamath Tribe. She urged them to take quick action to remove the Indian mascot.
“I just want to let you know that the racist Indian mascot gets in the way of your stated goal of equity,” she said.
She said the delay in action is unacceptable and the mascot is dehumanizing to Native Americans.
“It shows allowance of institutionalized racism. The pandemic of racism in our country is as deadly as COVID,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.