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Many school districts across Oregon have opted to start their school years with at-home distance learning.

KOIN 6 NEWS - Dozens of parents and kids rallied near the Clackamas Town Center on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. They are advocating for the choice for teachers and students to go back into the classroomFrustrated parents and students gathered Thursday in Clackamas County to advocate for the option to return to in-person schooling.

In an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, many school districts across Oregon have opted to start their school years with at-home distance learning.

But many say distance learning simply isn't working. So parents, grandparents and kids joined a rally near the Clackamas Town Center to get a message to state leaders. They want state leaders to re-evaluate the metrics and give local school districts more autonomy.

Organizers of rallies like the one held Thursday are asking Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Department of Education to allow students and teachers the option of returning to classrooms if they feel safe to do so.

"This morning we cried over math, it's just not working. They are front of screens for four hours a day and it's too much," said parent Lisa Decker. "I don't understand why we prioritize bars and other establishment and we can't prioritize our schools and our kids and I am tired of it but that's why I am here."

Shalyse Olson has four kids in the Salem-Keizer School District and is a former teacher for the district. She's helping to organize a rally for Oct. 5 on the steps of the State Capitol.

"It's been really sad, it's been frustrating and sad," she said. "I think we are just failing. We are failing our teachers, we are failing our students. We are failing everywhere."

Olson told KOIN 6 News that she and other parents feel like they've had no say in any of the state's decisions on education since the beginning of March when students were sent home. She believes the systems put in place to accommodate distance learning simply aren't giving kids the educations they deserve.

"We are doing them a disservice by not stepping up and asking for an option," said Olson. "If the in-person learning works best for them, then we want that option."

Olson and the parents, teachers and students who share her views are asking state leaders for more options. But Olson says despite sending letters and emails to state leaders, she has yet to receive a response.

"We are not saying that this in-person should be the only choice by any means nor should it be full-time, every student, 5 days a week. We are just merely asking that for those teachers who are ready who are waiting, ready and prepared and want to be in the classroom and those parents and students who feel the exact same be given that choice as well," Olson said.

Olson said she supports the option to remain home and continue distance learning for those who feel safest doing so.

"We are supportive of all types of learning," she said.

KOIN 6 News reached out the Oregon Department of Education and received the following response:

"ODE and OHA are partnering closely on a daily basis trying to resolve challenges, review best practices, and support education and health leaders across the state.The kinds of disruption and impacts families and kids are experiencing are a real impact of responding to COVID-19. We will be the first ones cheering to see the metrics come back down in counties across Oregon.

Families have a right to voice their opinion and ODE knows this is a challenging time for students and families. ODE believes being as consistent as possible statewide and holding the metrics to their intent and following them closely as conditions from COVID-19 change is the best way to balance the array of needs between the desire to offer instruction in person and ensure educator and student safety while attending to the needs of the healthcare system and total system capacity to respond to any new cases."

KOIN News 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.

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