When will Clackamas County schools return to classrooms?
Schools are now a few weeks into online learning, but some families are more eager than ever to get their students into the physical classrooms. Even with the potential for looser requirements in coming weeks though — for grades 4 and up — returning soon in Clackamas County does not appear likely.
Many parents have joined the Facebook group "Clack to School" to advocate for a safe return. The group has more than 3,000 members.
Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall sent a letter to families Friday, Oct. 2, acknowledging that there have been many questions around when the district might return to in-person learning.
"We are just as eager as you are to return to in-person learning," he said, "but must follow these metrics and take precautions so we can get back into our schools safely."
He pointed out that at this time, Clackamas County does not meet the metrics required to return.
Those metrics must be met for three consecutive weeks and include:
· State test positivity rate at or lower than 5%
· County test positivity rate at or lower than 5%
· County case counts at 10 or lower per 100,000/30 or lower for grades K-3
Clackamas County and the state have both at times met the positivity rate for three weeks, and the county did for one three-week stretch meet the looser 30-or-lower case count requirement — but not all at once. And Clackamas County has never reached the 10-or-lower case count requirement.
In the latest data, Clackamas County is not meeting any of the metrics for three consecutive weeks.
However, Gov. Kate Brown did announce on Tuesday, Oct. 6, that Oregon health experts together with school administrators will be reevaluating and potentially lowering benchmarks for opening schools in the coming weeks. She noted specifically the statewide requirement is "quite challenging for communities around the state."
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said Brown was referring to the requirement that the state test positivity rate must be at or lower than 5% for three weeks. He suggested that the state was looking at dropping the statewide requirement and instead relying on the two local metrics when considering allowing schools to reopen.
If that statewide metric were dropped and the other two remained unchanged, still Clackamas County schools would not be able to reopen, at least for grades 4 and up, without meeting that elusive 10-or-lower case count requirement.
The potential for students in grades K-3 to return would be slightly greater. Clackamas County has seen the positivity rate lower than 5% for eight of the last nine recorded weeks and has seen the case rate per 100,000 at or below 30 for four of the last nine recorded weeks.
If those numbers align for three consecutive weeks, then perhaps some younger Clackamas County students could see hybrid learning take off.
However, Canby School District must also meet metrics for Marion County since 14% of school staff live there.
Marion County is much further from meeting the requirements. It has not met either of the two local requirements even for a single week.
If Brown happens to announce significant changes that allow for reopening, then Canby School District will be ready. According to District Spokesperson Autumn Foster, all planning has been completed and submitted so that if changes come, the district could follow the directives on when to return to the classrooms.
For now, the distance learning continues, and Goodall offered a couple of suggestions for families. First, if you are feeling disconnected or have questions about your child's progress, reach out to your child's teacher. Secondly, remind your student of behavior expectations.
"Student learning is our shared responsibility," Goodall said. "As such, students need to be responsible for their behavior and engagement in their classes. We have experienced a handful of incidents involving irresponsible student behavior."
Goodall said otherwise, though, he has been "impressed with the resiliency and motivation of our learners."
Nick Budnick contributed to this story.
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