Clackamas County school classrooms will remain mostly empty for now.
Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Department of Education last week released looser reopening metrics for schools that, at the time, would have allowed Clackamas County schools to begin hybrid learning. However, the latest COVID-19 data put a halt to that.
In the last two-week period, according to the Oregon Health Authority, Clackamas County showed a spike in cases per 100,000 people, from 85.5 in the previous two-week period to 111.5 in the two-week period from Oct. 18 through Oct. 31. In the same period, the county test positivity rate spiked from 4.7% to 6.6%.
The case rate per 100,000 puts Clackamas County schools in the orange transition zone, where the county case rate across 14 days should be at 100 to 199 per 100,000 (total, not average per week), and the county test positivity rate between 8% and 10%.
So, all schools in Clackamas County must remain in comprehensive distance learning with limited in-person instruction for at least the next two weeks, according to a news release from Clackamas County.
"The metrics in place to guide opening schools to on-site learning are based on science," the release said. "Once the county meets the criteria to reopen schools, individual schools make the actual decisions about their operations, learning mode and timelines. And parents and families make their own decisions whether to send their children back to on-site learning."
The new metrics dictate that for schools to begin a hybrid model with grades K-3 and then adding up to grade 6 (the yellow zone), the county case rate across 14 days should be at 50 to 99 per 100,000, and the county test positivity rate should be between 5% and 8%.
To return to full on-site learning (the green zone), the county case rate across 14 days should be less than 50 per 100,000 people, and the county test positivity rate should be less than 5%.
The county took the chance to warn families, though, that returning to school could result in COVID-19 cases and adjustments to school plans.
"Parents and families should realize that any school that provides on-site learning could experience COVID-19 cases and outbreaks," the county release said. "Oregon public health rules require individual schools to be prepared to work with local public health officials in responding to cases and outbreaks and, if necessary, switch back to distance learning. Parents and families need to be prepared to return to distance learning, as well."
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