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In-person instruction won't resume until Washington County meets certain metrics.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A student picks up an iPad from school staff during a device pick-up day for students at Charles F. Tigard Elementary School in April.The Tigard-Tualatin School District will begin the start the 2020-21 school year online with comprehensive distance learning classes, the district announced today.

The announcement follows Gov. Kate Brown's guidance, which was released today in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority. 

Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith identified the guiding factors leading to this decision to include the continued spread of COVID-19 specifically in the metropolitan area; the mandated health and safety measures that must be in place to open buildings and serve all students; and the disruption to learning that would be caused by mandatory 14-day quarantining of students and staff and the shutting down of classrooms and buildings when positive cases are reported. 

"As educators, we are painfully aware of the importance of in-person instruction and relationship building, and all of us cannot wait for the day when we can welcome our students back into our buildings," Rieke-Smith said in a news release. "This decision was made by weighing evidence-based data from our county and state health officials alongside my obligation to protect the safety and well-being of each of all of our students, teachers, and staff. Making this decision now allows our staff time to focus on creating a robust online learning experience that will thoughtfully meet the needs of every TTSD student." 

Under the district's amended school year calendar, the first day of classes will be Monday, Sept. 14. Online instruction will continue for the first nine weeks of the school year.

Planning will continue to ready the district to safely transition back into buildings and for hybrid in-person instruction, a timeline that will be informed by local and state public health conditions as reported in the governor's health metrics and the phased recovery of Washington County, district officials say.

Rieke-Smith said Washington County is currently at a rate of daily COVID-19 cases that misses the mark for in-person classes, although she admits that just about everyone prefers that model.

Read more about the state's metrics for resuming in-person instruction from a story published July 28, 2020.

As an example, one Tigard-Tualatin staff member, who has been providing support for a Pacific Islander family in the Tigard-Tualatin School District over the summer, was told that by that family that they alone have lost six family members in the last two months to COVID-19, Rieke-Smith told the Pamplin Media Group.

"So this is no joke, and I think our community needs to understand that, and particularly for our historicially underserved communities of color … they are hit disproportionally hard," said Rieke-Smith.

She added, "We know that kids are served best when they're in person, but if it means people are going to be infected or worse, I have to balance that, as does every superintendent."

The Tigard-Tualatin School District is currently hosting community presentations to engage students and families in the planning to date for the "Operational Blueprint to Reentry" plan, and presentations specific to grades, schools, languages and special needs will be hosted over the next several weeks.

A calendar of upcoming virtual community and family meetings, along with presentations and important return-to-school resources, is available on the district's website. 

The district will finalize planning over the next two weeks and present the completed blueprint to the Tigard-Tualatin School Board on Aug. 10, with details specific to elementary, middle and high school sent to district families that same week, according to district officials.

All Oregon K-12 school districts must file their Health and Safety plans with their county health departments and the "Blueprint to Reentry" with the Oregon Department of Education by Aug. 15.

The district's finalized plan will be posted and available to the public on the district website. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated with more comments from the Tigard-Tualatin schools superintendent and information on the state metrics.

By Ray Pitz
News Editor
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