Roseburg School District officially announced that it will start school with remote education for children, but most other Douglas County schools are still weighing their options following Tuesday’s release of health metrics by the state that will determine when schools can reopen buildings to students.
Gov. Kate Brown released the information during a joint press conference with the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority.
To open to in-person learning in all grades, the following benchmarks have to be met for three consecutive weeks:
- The statewide positive COVID-19 testing rate needs to be at or below 5%.
- The county must have 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents in seven days.
- The county positive testing rate needs to be at or below 5% in seven days.
The Glide School District released a statement Wednesday that “it appears for now that (the district) will begin school in the fall under Comprehensive Distance Learning,” but that it was awaiting more information from the state in the next week or two.
“We have had to change our pathway and plans four times in three weeks,” the statement read. “We have put forth a lot of time, manpower, and hard work; only to be mandated to go in a different direction. We feel your pain as well!”
The Winston-Dillard School District announced it would update its operational blueprints according to the latest guidelines, but didn’t specify how it would be impacted by the latest information. All schools, both public and private, will need to release plans on reopening schools to the Oregon Department of Education by Aug. 15.
Several smaller private schools said they were waiting for final guidance from the state, but expected to reopen in the fall.
The statewide positive testing rate for the last seven day period was 5.1%, according to OHA. While Douglas County’s positive testing rate was 5.2%.
Douglas County reported 29 new cases between July 21 and July 28. The test positivity rate in the county was 5.3% as of July 25, according to Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team.
That means under current guidelines schools could not reopen.
Statewide positive tests have gone down in the last three weeks. Douglas County, however, had an abnormally high positive test result in the last week. It had been 2.6% and 2.1% the two weeks prior and is measured each Thursday.
“We continue to encourage residents to be careful about travel, avoid parties, socially distance, stay home if you are sick and wear a mask where recommended,” said Tamara Howell, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team.
The last time Douglas County met both benchmarks to reopen schools for all students was July 3.
If the positive test rates go below 5%, it’s possible for some students to return to school if there are no more than 30 cases per 100,000 residents — a benchmark the county is currently meeting. Children in kindergarten through third grade, students at remote rural schools and those who need in-person classes could return to school under that provision.
When students return to on-site education, the school districts will still need to comply with other guidelines laid out by the state, such as wearing face masks, social distancing and staying in stable cohorts.
“School policy is enforced by the local school board and by the ODE,” Howell said. “The county has no jurisdiction over education.”
The state department of education is expected to release one more update to its guidelines on Aug. 11, prior to the Aug. 15 deadline for schools.