With Gov. Kate Brown's Feb. 15 goal, local districts review and finalize plans to get students in classrooms safely

Schools around the state, including Molalla and Colton, are working to finalize hybrid learning plans following Gov. Kate Brown's announcement over winter break that school districts can make their own decisions about returning to school in-person.

In Brown's announcement Dec. 23, she not only gave districts the decision-making power, but she also shifted the community health metrics for returning to in-person instruction from mandatory to advisory. She said she hopes schools will transition to in-person instruction by Feb. 15.

In Molalla, Superintendent Tony Mann said in a letter to school families that the district is reviewing the new guidance and will have additional updates soon.

Mann said even with the changes, Molalla's goals remain the same.

"We will continue to review and advance our plans to reopen school with safety for our students and our staff as a top priority," Mann said. "We will work in partnership with our staff, teachers, our associations and our community. We will review our existing step-wise plan for the safe return to in-person instruction with an immediate focus on our elementary levels while building the foundation for our secondary levels to return to the classroom as well."

Down the highway in Colton, limited in-person learning already has been taking place as part of a phased plan the district rolled out in November, according to Superintendent Koreen Barreras-Brown.

"Together, we continue our path for reentry to full in-person teaching and learning that is safe and supportive of all," Barreras-Brown said.

Barreras-Brown emphasized that even with the announcement, schools and district still must follow Ready Schools, Safe Learners safety protocols and guidance. She said potential updates to the advisory health metrics for returning in-person will be published on or before Jan. 19.

"At the point we get more information on the review and possible updates of the metrics, we will make final decisions/updates to our phases for reentry," Barreras-Brown said. "Our goal remains the same: Start full in-person teaching and learning in a safe and healthy manner as soon as possible."

School districts are under increasing pressure to open their doors to students. A Facebook group called Clack to School, which formed to encourage Oregon leadership to reopen in-person school in Clackamas County, has about 3,800 members.

A newer Facebook group, Open Canby Schools, is specifically dedicated to getting students into Canby school classrooms. It has more than 300 members. Recently, group administrator Tyler Smith posted a "petition to open Canby schools."

"We the parents, teachers, students, business owners, coaches, priests, pastors, taxpayers, and other residents of Canby hereby DEMAND that Superintendent Goodall re-open Canby Schools – now," the petition reads. "The Oregon Governor has authorized schools to be open and we agree! We all have our different reasons but agree the schools and facilities should be open for use. If you will not then we ask the school board to find someone who will."

Lake Oswego was among the first public school districts to reveal plans to return. Superintendent Lora de la Cruz announced Tuesday, Jan. 5, that the district's goal is to open the first week of February. Like Molalla and Colton, other school districts, including Canby, so far have been less specific about a timeframe.

Kristen Wohlers
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