Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



About 40 Crook County residents said they would be willing to fill in as a substitute

This week, the COVID pandemic finally put an end to an admirable run of weeks of in-person for Crook County schools. Thankfully, it wasn't an outbreak among students, or even among staff, that forced the school district to return to distance learning. Instead, an increase in exposures and resulting quarantines left local schools without enough teachers and substitutes to keep the doors open.

The story could have ended there – in a lot of communities it probably would have ended there. But in true Crook County fashion, the vigilance of the Crook County School District during the past few weeks and the benevolence of local residents are once again giving students a chance to stay in the classrooms as 2021 begins.

Upon learning that schools have to close this week due to a teacher shortage, Crook County Judge Seth Crawford wondered if parents or other citizens could possibly volunteer to fill the shortage.

The answer is … sort of. Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson has explained that parents and community members who were interested in substituting need to go through the CCSD Human Resources Department and apply through Teachers Standards and Practices (TSPC) to obtain a Restricted Substitute Teaching License. The district's HR director, Sean Corrigan, added that those substitutes, if they never held an Oregon teaching license, can only work for 60 days per school year. Further complicating matters, state COVID regulations prohibit volunteers in school buildings to keep students and staff as safe as possible.

Despite these barriers, about 40 people said they would be willing to fill in as a substitute. These are people who have careers and families taking time to tackle a pretty tough task. Ask some of the parents who spent any time guiding their own kids through distance learning how hard it is to teach. Their willingness, whether it produces results, is quite impressive.

Meanwhile, the future of in-person education beyond the winter break is shrouded in doubt because the Safe Harbor designation that has enabled schools to stay open expires on Jan. 4. Oregon does not allow schools to stay open in counties where new case totals exceed 60 during a two-week period, and recently Crook County has landed well beyond that mark.

But local schools might still catch a break. The state has reached out to district leaders about extending the Safe Harbor designation. Educators didn't give a reason why the state is considering that extension, but it's safe to assume that the vigilance of the school district and the lack of spread among students has given them reason to consider the continuation of in-person education.

This week, kids are going to have to learn at home. But maybe, as the state considers a Safe Harbor extension, as community members volunteer to teach, and as a vaccine finally enters the picture and gives hope that the pandemic will finally end in the next few months, kids won't have to spend any other weeks learning at home. And once again, we have the community's leaders and citizens to thank.

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