Oregon K-12 schools won't close, but gatherings canceled
School districts throughout Oregon will stay open to students, but reduce all non-essential meetings and activities, following advice from Gov. Kate Brown's office.
On Wednesday, March 11, the governor's office issued a ban on all gatherings of 250 people or more for the next four weeks, in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"We find ourselves in an unprecedented public health crisis," Brown said Thursday morning, March 12. "What is clear today is that we must take immediate action to stem the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in our communities."
Brown, who declared a state of emergency in Oregon earlier in the week, also issued orders that schools cancel "all non-essential school-associated gatherings and group activities" like parent group meetings, field trips and competitions.
In a message to all families and students, Tigard-Tualatin School District announced it would suspend "all school-based assemblies and events, off-campus field trips, and professional development meetings and events."
The district, like others throughout the state, also announced it would deny audience admission at all school-based athletic events, except for staff and media, in accordance with recommendations from the state.
"We remain committed to keeping our schools open and safe. In accordance with the Governor's guidance and in order to minimize potential opportunities for the virus to spread, we have decided to proactively begin suspending events that bring large groups of students, adults, and community members together," a March 12 TTSD message states.
The district said it would work with trip planners and event organizers of affected activities, and noted that for events where the community must have access, like school board meetings, online streaming will be offered and "virtual meeting platforms" would be considered.
Despite the cancellations and closures, most public schools are staying open to students, keeping with guidance issued from health and education associations on March 8.
"Considerations of school closures will be a last resort," Brown said.
Education officials say school closures would create heavy burdens for many parents who can't provide childcare, and moreover, many of Oregon's vulnerable students rely on schools for meals and healthcare.
"The reality is it's critically important for our children to remain in school to get the educations they need," Brown said, responding to media questions. "Several schools provide both breakfast and lunch, and in (some schools) we have health providers on campus."
Since late February, when Oregon announced its first COVID-19 case, three different schools affected by the virus closed temporarily for cleaning and disinfection, before re-opening.
The day before the governor's public announcement, colleges and universities announced they were moving most classes and final exams online.
Multnomah County health officials say the measures being taken are the best way "to slow the transmission of disease and preserve hospital capacity for those who will need it most."
"We have to use the public health tool of social distancing as the best way, in our opinion, to try to slow the spread of the virus in our community," Dr. Jennifer Vines, lead health officer for the tri-county region, said Thursday.
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