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Appointment to position vacated by critic's move to Idaho expected at Feb. 8 meeting

Scott J. Dahlman, a frequent critic on the Oregon City School Board during his short tenure, will be resigning from his board position effective Feb. 1, because his family is moving to Idaho.

"While in-person learning opportunities are not our reason for moving, we are excited for my elementary-aged sons to have the chance to be back in a classroom full time," Dahlman said.

Dahlman was elected to the board in May 2019, when he expressed his hope that the three "progressive" board members elected at the same time would not make decisions as a slate. Dahlman was the lone no vote on July 27 in a 6-1 decision to start the 2020-21 school year with online learning and delay any transition to a hybrid model of instruction to no earlier than Nov. 11. He has since continued to be the strongest voice on the board pushing for in-person learning.

Dahlman said he is moving to Idaho "purely for family reasons," as his wife's parents live there. But he acknowledged that online classes (termed comprehensive distanced learning, or CDL, by state officials) has been "very difficult" for his family, "as I know it has for many families in our district." He has shared this perspective at many board meetings, and is hopeful that Oregon City will move toward at least some level of in-person learning soon.

"Despite the fact that our staff and administration have gone to great lengths to provide the best CDL experience possible, there's simply no replacement for in-person instruction, especially at the elementary level," Dahlman said. "While the concerns around COVID are well founded, I continue to believe that the threats to the mental and physical health of many of our students are also very real under the current learning model."

Gov. Kate Brown recently lowered the bar for getting students back into classrooms, but Superintendent Larry Didway told school board members during their meeting earlier this month that "advisory" COVID school reopening metrics are, in fact, still "mandatory," due to the limited liability protection only if the metrics are followed. Didway said that he was hopeful to introduce a hybrid model in February, allowing families a choice as to whether to send their kids to schools or continue virtual learning.

OCSD has announced that the earliest possible transition to a hybrid model would occur on Feb. 8, beginning with K-1. School officials remain cautious, however, due to a projected surge in the spread of the virus, and a potential vaccination program for employees. School district leaders will review and discuss the latest directives and guidance at a board work session on Jan. 25.

Dahlman expects his move to Idaho will be exciting and positive for his family, but it was with mixed emotions that he's moving away from Oregon City, which he called a "wonderful place."

"Serving my community on the School Board has been one of the greatest honors of my life," he said. "Oregon City School District is something we can all be proud of, and I am continually amazed at the continued striving for Scott Dahlmanexcellence in serving our students."

He commended his fellow board members for their committment to facing unprecedented challenges, despite being often presented with no "good" choices.

"I always appreciated the clear intentions of my fellow Board Members to try and serve our students as well as possible in this challenging environment," he said. "We didn't always agree, but there was always a collegial respect which was crucial for navigating education during this global pandemic."

In his resignation letter, he recognized Oregon City's teachers, classified staff and administration for the "great work" they do for students and expressed his appreciation for the participation from members in the community who provided input on school board decisions, saying that robust participation is a key component of effective policymaking.

School board members are expected to appoint a replacement to Dahlman's position at their Feb. 8 meeting. That appointee will serve until June 30, and is expected to be among the candidates in the May election. The winner of that election will continue to serve in Position 6 for a two-year term that will expire June 30, 2023.

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