School board writes governor on school reopening
What was originally intended to be a letter requesting that Gov. Kate Brown loosen the metrics for returning to school, became a thank-you letter in light of the changes Brown announced.
At a Molalla River School District board meeting on Oct. 22, board member Calvin Nunn suggested drafting a letter to Brown encouraging her to lower the standards a bit to make it easier for students to return to school.
During the discussion, staff and board members expressed desires to return children to the classrooms and to ensure everyone remains safe from COVID-19 — a difficult task.
"I know this is a really, super tough issue because … the pandemic I guess affects different people in so many different ways," board member Craig Loughridge said Oct. 22. "I feel like it's really important to get kids back in classes onsite as soon as possible, but I also believe that we also have to look out for the health and safety of both parents and teachers and classified staff … and so I worry about that."
Following that discussion, as if she had heard the conversation, Brown announced on Oct. 30 looser metrics for reopening schools.
So, when the letter made it to the agenda for Molalla's Nov. 12 meeting, it had morphed into something of a thank-you to Brown.
"We believe the new guidelines provide for the safe return of students to school following best information from science, and we wish to thank you for pressing these changes forward in Oregon," the letter says.
At the same time, the letter expresses the desire for students to return to in-person learning.
"The undeniable setbacks for students — socially, emotionally and academically — during the period of school closure associated with the COVID-19 pandemic weigh heavy on our hearts," the letter says. "Yes, the impact on all students is undeniable, and for our most vulnerable, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared that 'extended school closures deprive children who live in unsafe homes and neighborhoods of an important layer of protection.
"… To this end, we are pleased that ODE and OHA have worked together to provide guidance to Oregon school districts that, similar to other states, regions and countries, provide for a more expedient return of teachers, staff, administrators and the students they serve to safe and ready schools."
But because of spiking cases by Nov. 12, board member Ralph Gierke initially voiced unease over the letter.
On the contrary, board member Linda Eskridge was adamantly in favor of sending it.
"I'm concerned with how much the children are losing, especially those that don't have the better homes," Eskridge said. "They definitely need to see the teachers. They're failing; they're getting further behind. There's more damage happening with depression and all this without being able to see their teachers in the school where they feel safe. I feel that we need to do something, at least with the younger children and the ones that have special needs. So, I feel like we need to send the letter."
Loughridge piped in and noted that the letter does not ask Brown to open the schools now but simply offers thanks for the recent steps she and the Oregon Department of Education have taken and lists the importance of students eventually returning to school.
Chair Mark Lucht agreed that was a fair characterization of the letter.
With that, the board unanimously agreed to send the letter, which can be read in full at molallariv.k12.or.us under the board of directors' "BoardBook."
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