Oregon schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year
By Eder Campuzano | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Oregon’s public school students will not return to their classrooms this academic year.
Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday announced that her school closure order, originally slated to end April 28, will now stretch into June in an effort to maintain the state’s progress in stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“School and learning will continue as best as we can using remote means,” Brown said, adding she wanted to give parents, educator and students certainty about the rest of the school year.
Oregon Department of Education officials had anticipated the mandate, urging the state’s public school districts in late March to adopt distance learning plans and launch them by April 13.
Jim Green, head of the Oregon School Boards Association, said in reaction to Wednesday’s news, “It has appeared for some time this day was coming, but it’s a difficult day all the same. It’s sad to think of families unable to experience the graduation moment celebrating years of hard work by students. It’s sad to think of empty classrooms, further disruptions in learning, and knowing that some students’ needs will be unmet. But these are unprecedented times, and we support the governor’s decision in the interest of protecting public health.”
Brown also said she and state schools chief Colt Gill have long-awaited guidance for schools, parents and high school seniors about how members of how officials will decide whether members of the class of 2020 qualify for a diploma.
All seniors who were on track to graduate when schools closed in mid-March, including having passing grades at that point in any course required for graduation, will receive passing grades and earn diplomas, she said. That right to graduate is locked in for those students, regardless of their participation in learning after schools closed.
Brown called on districts to give extra attention and special opportunities to any students who had Fs in one or more needed courses on March 13 to help them “get across the finish line.”
Some districts began their first week of distance learning Monday. Oregon education officials’ insistence that districts educate their students from afar was an about-face from their previous position.
As recently as March 19, both state and local education officials said they simply lacked the infrastructure to adopt an online learning strategy that can serve all of their students equally, in particular children with disabilities and for whom English is a second language.
Brown’s original closure order closed public schools to shutter for two weeks surrounding spring break. The governor extended that mandate to April 28 days later.
The closure order required districts to provide students with supplemental learning material, either online or distributed in physical packets, in order to continue collecting state funding. Districts also had to provide meals for their students and pay teachers for the length of the closure.
Brown’s original order also barred the state’s public online academies from enrolling new students.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.