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Anticipating Closures, Grants Pass Schools Move To Remote Learning

Austyn McNew
Teacher Austyn McNew's second-grade class at Fort Vannoy Elementary School in Grants Pass.

Administrators in some Josephine County schools have announced they’re moving students to distance learning after the Thanksgiving holiday. A sharp increase in COVID cases in recent weeks changed their plans for in-person instruction.

In the past three weeks, Josephine County’s COVID metrics for schools have gone from the green to orange categories laid out by the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority.

According to Kirk Kolb, superintendent of Grants Pass School District 7, the county is just 30 cases from the strictest, red category, which triggers closures.

“In meeting with the local health authority, they were very confident that we were trending well into the red, or more than 200 cases per 100,000 population,” Kolb says.

So, on Tuesday, they made the call to go remote, in order to help families and teachers plan for the following week.

“We felt it pertinent to make this decision to give everybody enough time to make the transition,” Kolb says.

Limited “in-person instruction” will continue for students in grades K-6 for those who have higher needs, who lack necessary technology, or who are doing career, technical education.

A representative from Three Rivers, the Josephine County’s other school district, said they are still planning to return to in-person instruction beginning November 30. He said they’ll continue following state metrics until they’re required to go remote.

Superintendent Kolb says because of the significant reduction in COVID cases necessary to go back from the state’s red to yellow category that allows on-site learning, their best estimate is to begin meeting in person on January 4, after students’ winter break.

With two typically large family holidays on the horizon, that could be the best case scenario.

“We got a lot of work to do as a community,” Kolb says.