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Portland school board votes for return to full-time in-person learning in fall — with virtual option

The PPS board voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow students to return to the classroom full-time next school year.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The virtual vote Tuesday night was unanimous. Barring any surprises, full-time in-person learning will return to Portland Public Schools (PPS) in the fall.

"I certainly hope it looks like normal school," said school board member Andrew Scott. "That would be the best outcome as we move forward. But there's a lot out of the district's control."

A return to full-time in-person learning in a matter of months is not terribly surprising. What may be surprising is what Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero revealed as part of the plan.

"We have a team of staff developing a virtual school option model for families for students who have real reasons for not coming back to school quite yet," Guerrero said.

While details are still being worked out, reaction is pouring in.

"We know there continue to be students and families who are not able to get vaccinated and are at a high risk of COVID, and I think it makes a lot of sense," said Elizabeth Thiel, president of the Portland Association of Teachers. "I think there's a lot of opportunity to do it in a way that works well and builds off of everything we've learned."

"I think they should have a remote option," added Eric Happel of ED 300, a group that has been working tirelessly to reopen schools.

Happel thinks there is a place for distance learning and it is through the Oregon Charter Academy, not PPS.

"I'm not clear why PPS wants to use its funding for that when there is another option in Oregon," he said. "There may be a good reason for that but it's not clear to me why we wouldn't use an option that already exists here."

What is clear is that school as we knew it prior to the pandemic, at least something very close to it, is becoming more realistic by the day.

"I'm very confident we'll be able to reopen," Scott said. "What that looks like may differ a little bit depending on what the situation looks like in the fall."

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