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Gov. Brown orders Oregon public schools to return to in-person learning

Public schools will offer universal access to in-person learning on or before the weeks of March 29 for K-5 students and April 19 for students in grades 6-12.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Nearly a year after ordering the closure of all schools statewide, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday issued an executive order to return all Oregon public school students to the classroom for in-person learning.

In a letter to Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Director Patrick Allen and Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Director Colt Gill, Gov. Brown directed all Oregon public schools to offer universal access to in-person learning on or before the weeks of March 29 for K-5 students and April 19 for students in grades 6-12.

"Thanks to the smart choices Oregonians have made, our COVID-19 numbers have declined,” said Brown. “All but six counties now meet or exceed Oregon’s advisory metrics for a return to in-person, hybrid learning for all K-12 grade levels. And, five of those counties meet the advisory metrics for a return to elementary school."

After the weeks of March 29 and April 19, all Oregon public schools will either be in a fully on-site learning model or a hybrid learning model when their counties meet or exceed Oregon’s advisory COVID-19 metrics.

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"Whether or not public schools should return kids to the classroom this spring is no longer up for discussion. The science and data is clear, schools can return to in-person instruction with a very low risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly with a vaccinated workforce," Brown said.

Some students or parents may want to remain in comprehensive distance learning, for health needs or other reasons, and the governor said they'll have that option. School districts may move back to distance learning if health officials determine that community COVID transmission rates warrant a transition.

The OHA and ODE will issue updated guidance to match the governor’s directives by March 19.

The Oregon Education Association (OEA) released a statement Friday saying many local school districts will be ready, or are ready, to meet the goals the governor set.  

"Educators throughout the state have worked tirelessly with local school districts to create in-person instruction plans that will meet the unique needs of their communities while keeping students, families and educators safe," the OEA statement reads. "In fact, many schools have already resumed in person instruction and many school districts have already reached, or are very close to reaching, agreements that will bring additional students back to physical classrooms by late March or early April."

Brown closed all Oregon schools due to the spreading virus on March 16, 2020.

“Closing schools in Oregon is a decision I will never forget,” Brown said. “Parents, educators, school staff, but especially students have come so far while navigating the challenges of this pandemic. Welcoming students back to every school across Oregon will be a milestone worth celebrating."

RELATED: Here’s how Portland, Salem and Vancouver schools will handle COVID cases