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Parents advocate for reopening schools as Portland Public Schools leaders discuss issue

District leaders say racial equity and social justice, and the health of students and staff, have been some of the guiding principles for COVID-19 planning.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Rene Gonzalez has had enough. He is a father of three and co-founder of ED 300, a group advocating for the reopening of schools. Gonzalez says distance learning is not cutting it.

"There are certain elements of the development process that can't be replicated effectively online," said Gonzalez. "There's social, emotional development."

Gonzalez is afraid that if schools remain closed families will leave Oregon for states where the schools are open.

"It, long term, has a negative impact on the state as a whole," he said.

On Monday night, Portland Public Schools (PPS), the largest district in the state, held a virtual discussion on COVID-19 and the impact on schools. 

"It's always been about balancing education and health as we move through this and from the state there have always been two primary metrics we focus on – case rates and testing positivity rates," said Dr. Russell Brown.

District leaders say racial equity and social justice, and the health of students and staff, have been some of the guiding principles for COVID-19 planning.

"Planning has been and remains incredibly complex," said Dr. Brown.

As complex as it has been, research by Portland-based NWEA shows students are learning from home. For example, data indicates students are picking up reading easier than they are math.

"I think teachers across the country deserve a ton of credit for how they've rallied and helped students early in the school year," said Chris Minnich of NWEA.

Those advocating for the reopening of schools do not disagree. They believe that students and teachers alike have a lot more to gain in the classroom. 

"We have to push, no matter what, to keep schools in focus and working families in focus," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's group, ED 300, has a number of events planned this week including protests outside closed schools and a rally outside the Governor's mansion.

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