State officials, school leaders and parents agree they want children in classrooms, but communities and schools are deeply divided over whether the benefits for students outweigh the health risks to students, families and staff.
Gov. Kate Brown and ODE loosened county metrics for schools to offer in-person instruction, giving more consideration to local conditions. But the case numbers keep climbing, making it harder to justify in-person instruction.
ODE updated its metrics Oct. 30 just as case counts began steeply climbing. Based on the size of the county and the case numbers, the new metrics set up four categories for schools: K-12 in-person learning, K-6 in-person learning with a possibility of adding more grades, transitioning into or out of in-person learning, and distance learning only.
Metrics are judged on a two-week total, and the Oregon Health Authority released the first report Nov. 2. Six counties were in the green, with schools able to offer K-12 in-person instruction.
This week, Curry, Tillamook, Jefferson and Josephine counties dropped from being able to allow K-12 to allowing K-6 only. Fourteen counties moved into distance learning only, up from 10 last week. Sherman County went from distance-learning only to K-6 because its test positivity rate went down even though its overall COVID-19 case total went from three to five.
Despite the rising numbers, some schools can still begin in-person instruction. Schools have a two-week grace period to open classrooms once their county meets the metrics, even if numbers rise during that time.