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New State Guidance Lowers The COVID-19 Bar For Oregon Schools, Especially For Elementary Students

Rob Manning/OPB

The new guidance includes mostly small changes, with one big one.

School districts around the state have been waiting on Tuesday’s update to Oregon’s “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance.

The new guidance lowers the bar for districts to bring students back to the classroom for in-person instruction.

Most of this guidance, including the updated metrics, is advisory. That continues Gov. Kate Brown’s move last month to leave final decisions on reopening schools to local districts.

The state’s new guidance says districts should still consider community case counts before reopening — but lowers the bar for COVID-19 case rates recommended for hybrid learning, especially for Oregon’s youngest students.

Now, schools are advised to begin reopening for “elementary on-site and hybrid transition” when county case counts per 100,000 are 350 or below. The previous metrics set the metrics for a transition to “limited in-person instruction” at 200 or below. County test positivity requirements have changed too.

ODE said the changes align with recommendations from the Harvard Global Health Institute.

For schools that choose to reopen for hybrid learning despite high case counts, they must offer access to on-site COVID testing for symptomatic students and staff, plus those with known exposure to COVID-19.

The state also requires that a school employee be included in reopening planning. The new guidance also requires training for all staff before reopening in person.

The update also includes resources for schools on learning outdoors.

This story will be updated.
Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting