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Hillsboro School District officials plan to meet with state agencies and local stakeholders following new guidance.

PMG FILE PHOTO: - Hillsboro School District staff, students and families can expect an update from the district on a possible return to in-person learning on Jan. 13.Officials at the Hillsboro School District say they will plan to meet with state education and health officials and collaborate with local stakeholders before making any decisions on returning to in-person learning.

District staff, students and families can expect an update on the possibility of returning to in-person learning Jan. 13, the district said in a statement Monday, Jan. 4. The district said school board members would receive an update on the topic during a work session scheduled for Jan. 12.

The district's statement comes after Gov. Kate Brown on Dec. 23 issued a letter to the directors of the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education stating that previously set health metrics guiding schools' return to in-person learning should be considered advisory rather than mandatory starting Jan. 1.

The Hillsboro School District is Oregon's fourth-largest school district.

Brown set a Feb. 15 goal for schools to return to in-person learning, according to her letter.

Her announcement came as the number of cases of COVID-19 continued to surge around the state.

The Hillsboro School District highlighted actions the governor said school districts and state agencies should take as districts consider whether to return to in-person learning.

Among the actions were for OHA and ODE to collaborate with districts on returning to in-person learning as soon as possible, prioritizing elementary school students, the district said.

Younger students are widely considered to be the most negatively impacted by remote learning, as their ability to gain social-emotional skills has been substantially reduced.

Agencies should "collaborate on the alignment of Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance and Oregon (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules to ensure all necessary health and safety procedures and protocols are included to allow maximum access to in-person instruction in keeping with reasonable health and safety standards," the district said.

Additionally, OHA is to partner with schools to access on-site, rapid COVID-19 testing.

Brown also directed districts to involve teachers, school staff, students, and parents in the decision-making process for returning to in-person learning.

Agencies were to also provide any needed updates to the appropriate thresholds for the return to in-person learning by Jan. 19, the district said.

"We are scheduled to meet with both the governor's office and ODE within the next week to get further clarification on how these changes will impact schools and districts," the district said, adding that it would collaborate with local unions, including the Hillsboro Education Association and Hillsboro Classified United.

"We greatly appreciate your patience, understanding, and perseverance as we have navigated these incredibly challenging times together," the district said.

Brown has prioritized educators on a list of essential workers to receive vaccines for COVID-19 first.

State health and education officials, however, have said educators, who are classified in the state's "Phase 1b" group of essential workers to receive vaccines, won't be able to receive vaccines until late February, days after the governor's goal for returning to in-person learning, according to reporting by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

As Oregon healthcare workers begin to be vaccinated, the state has also received lower-than-expected amounts of the COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials say.

Although educators may not receive vaccines until late February, some school districts around the state have already announced they will move forward with returning to in-person learning.

Klamath County's two school districts have plans to return to in-person learning by the second week of January. Additionally, officials at the Eugene School District said before Brown's announcement they would move toward a hybrid of in-person and remote learning in early February.

The earliest students in Portland Public Schools could return is early February, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said in October.

Washington County has stayed in the "extreme risk" category of Brown's tiered risk classification since she announced the classification system in early December.

New confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in Washington County were lower than the statewide average from Dec. 13 to Dec. 26. But the county's test positivity rate, which health officials consider a measure of how widespread the coronavirus is in a population, was 1.1 percentage points higher than the statewide rate.

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