As schools prepare to reopen across the state, responding to Governor Kate Brown’s executive order that elementary schools open by March 29, and all other schools no later than April 29, they will have more flexibility in how students interact with one another and with adults at school. Under new guidelines released by the Oregon Department of Education. officials had insisted that an earlier rule limiting each student to contact with no more than 100 persons would have made it almost impossible for high schools to reopen.
Another rule, requiring that each student or teacher have 35 square feet of space, remains in effect, although the state is still considering a request to reduce that space to nine square feet.
Reopening dates will also be slightly relaxed as well, with several in-service days where teachers are trained in how to teach under the new restrictions counted as “reopened” days, so that an elementary school might not call its students back until April 5, for instance.
Prior to these new rules, the state prohibited districts from reopening schools if more than one out of 500 people in the district had an active case of the novel coronavirus, or if more than one out of ten people locally tested positive for exposure to the virus.
Now, schools are required to offer at least part-time classroom education if virus testing levels fall below those thresholds. Only if active cases rise beyond 350 per 100,000 would a district be permitted to close schools, and then only if it were believed that this would reduce further spread of the virus.
Corvallis schools are currently scheduled to reopen on April 1.
By John M. Burt