The Forest Grove High School. Photo: Brenda Schaffer
The state updated the “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” document Friday, October 30 to relax standards for reopening schools in Oregon, a move that Governor Kate Brown said could allow up to 130,000 students to return to in-person education right away. Individual districts ultimately make a decision on whether to reopen once they meet state standards for doing so.
“Today we are sharing scheduled updates to our metrics for schools. Guided by data, these metrics offer an intentional and measured approach to returning to in-person instruction while recognizing the importance of meeting our kids’ academic needs—and allow for in-person instruction in places of our state where the risk of COVID-19 is lower. They also set a North Star for the rest of the state to work toward,” said Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill. in a press release on Friday, October 30. “We all know that in-person instruction provides our children and families with more than access to an equitable education. Schools are a center of services to students and families, offering nutritious meals, access to social-emotional and mental health supports, as well as physical health services.”
“Our updated metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, are aligned with CDC recommendations, and bring Oregon in sync with the standards of other states like California,” said Governor Kate Brown. “They also help us meet our priority of returning students to in-person instruction. These metrics still place a very high bar for low case counts to open schools, while at the same time providing more flexibility for our younger students.”
For Forest Grove and other Washington County districts, though, the metrics do not allow for a return to in-person learning yet. With increased COVID-19 cases throughout the county, including the highest single daily count occurring on Thursday, with another record breaking day today, Washington County is among at least 12 counties that have case counts too high to reopen.
"Today, Governor Brown and the Oregon Department of Education announced a change to the metrics they are using to assess when it’s safe to reopen schools for in-person instruction. As these metrics are brand new, the committee and district staff will review the information and will communicate with parents, staff and the community in the coming days on how this will affect our transition plan," Forest Grove School District superintendent Dave Parker said in a statement.
According to OHA data as of Sunday, October 25, there have been 395 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in the 97116 zip code, which includes the city of Forest Grove, Verboort, portions of Gales Creek, Timber, and all of Glenwood. Data for smaller zip codes, such as Gales Creek's 97117 are lumped together with all small zip codes in Oregon and is near-useless for determining COVID-19 spread in smaller communities.
All the changes to the metrics can be read in this document.
A statement from the Forest Grove School District has been added to this article.