Families with younger children attended Bend-La Pine Schools will have to wait at least another three weeks to see their students return to schools in person. The district announced Monday that due to an increase in cases of COVID-19 in Deschutes County in recent weeks, it would have to delay its plan to send kids in kindergarten through 3rd grade back to school buildings starting next week.
- Courtesy Deschutes County
- Weekly case report metrics impact how and when schools return to in-person learning.
On Sept. 24, the Oregon Department of Education announced that due to the wildfires in Oregon, which disrupted testing in some locations, it would begin allowing school districts to ignore test-positivity rates from the month of September—provided the number of weekly positive cases in a particular county were still within the allowed limits. Prior to that decision, districts needed to be at a test-positivity rate of 5% or less to send younger kids back to school.
Under the guidelines, counties can reopen for students in grades K-3 if there are 30 or fewer cases per 100,000 people, and can reopen for grades 4-12 if the county has 10 or fewer positive cases per 100,000—though smaller counties have slightly different rules. Deschutes County’s case number per 100,000 went from 23.8 during the week of Sept. 13 to 36.3 cases per 100,000 during the week of Sept. 20—meaning it no longer met the guidelines for sending K-3 kids back to school buildings.
“The clock, in a word, has reset, and we must now start at the beginning and meet the health metric guidelines for three straight weeks,” wrote BLPS Interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist in a letter to families Sept. 28. “This means the earliest we could potentially begin the transition to hybrid/balanced learning for K-3 is Oct. 26. We remain committed to reopening for in-person learning as soon as the metrics allow us to do so.”
BLPS had planned a number of town halls to help families understand reopening guidelines, but canceled the Sept. 28 town hall “due to these changing circumstances.”
Meanwhile, in Crook County, students in grades 4 through 12 will return to in-person instruction on Oct. 5, after the county met the state guidelines for reopening. Due to the more relaxed metrics for students in grades K-3, younger Crook County students have been in school buildings for weeks.