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'This fall will not look like a normal year': Gov. Brown meets with council on reopening schools

Gov. Kate Brown's announcement on schools reopening came just minutes after the state reported a record-high 437 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
Credit: Estacada School District
Summer pilot project in Estacada School District

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown's council on reopening Oregon schools met Wednesday to take another look at how students will be returning for the 2020-21 school year.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread across Oregon, it has become clear that school this fall will not look like a normal year," Brown said in a press release Thursday.

Her announcement came just minutes after the Oregon Health Authority report that the state saw a record-high 437 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

RELATED: Oregon reports record-high 437 COVID-19 cases, 2 more deaths

Members of the Healthy Schools Reopening Council got an update from the OHA on the public health risk of COVID-19. Because the spread and severity of the virus varies from county to county, and even among school districts, council members worked to narrow down which specific metrics should guide local decisions on in-person and remote learning in the fall.

Most school districts in the Portland metro area have already announced that the school year will come with options: returning to school in most cases will mean a hybrid model with alternating student schedules; a second option for several districts is a fully online curriculum with no in-person classes.

One example of a hybrid model already underway is a pilot program being tested in the Estacada School District this summer.

RELATED: Estacada teacher spearheads test run of fall hybrid learning option

"Whether or not kids are in school buildings this fall, we must provide the very best possible education for every single Oregon student, while ensuring that the school experience is as safe as possible for everyone: students, educators, support staff, parents, and the community at large," Brown said.

Brown said she's committed to ensuring underserved and marginalized students get the support they need.

"We cannot allow our response to this pandemic to increase racial disparities in educational outcomes," she said.

RELATED: Back to school in Oregon: What your district's plan looks like

The council discussed how they'll keep the students and staff who do need to return to school buildings safe, including face mask rules, classroom capacity and bus capacity. They also talked about providing the flexibility in case schools need to transition to a longer school year.

The council's student representatives talked about how schools and educators can and must provide for student mental health and well-being as in-person connections will be limited.

Gov. Brown also announced on Thursday who will be taking part in a Healthy Early Learners Council focused on early learning and child care programs, as well as support systems for parents and providers.

RELATED: Cost of ensuring school safety complicates reopening plans

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