PORTLAND, Ore. — After reviewing the COVID-19 guidance on returning to school that Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon health officials announced on Tuesday, Portland Public Schools (PPS) decided the 2020-21 fall semester will consist of only online classes.
"This means all students Pre-K through Grade 12 will participate in an online learning model from Sept. 2, the first day of the 2020-21 school year in PPS, until at least Nov. 5, which is the end of the first quarter," PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said.
He added that it's still possible the fully online system will extend into the second quarter if COVID-19 metrics don't improve. He said if that is going to happen, PPS staff and families will know by Oct. 10.
According to Gov. Brown's new set of COVID-19 metrics, in order to resume any in-person learning, even part-time, a county needs to have less than 10 cases per 100,000 people for three weeks straight, with some exceptions for certain very small rural school districts.
Some counties are still far away from reaching that milestone. Multnomah County, for example, has a population of 812,855 people and would need to see a rate of 81 cases per week or less. Last week the county had 453 new cases.
"I want to acknowledge that we have all been anxious to learn what the new school year might look like, and that this news may provide a sense of assurance to some and a further challenge to others," Guerrero said. "Nearing the end of the summer now, we all hoped to be in a different reality with this pandemic."
He also assured parents that the model this school year begins with will be much different than the impromptu system put into place at the end of the last year. Children will be connecting with teachers and staff during an orientation for the first two weeks of school. After that, they'll follow a regular weekly schedule and interact with their teachers every day.
"As an educator, I know that there is no true replacement for face-to-face learning and the interaction between a student and a dedicated teacher or staff member," he said. "But our announcement today is in keeping with our highest priority during a global pandemic, which is the health and well being of our students and employees."