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Medford School District responds to shifting Oregon education plans amid COVID-19

As the Oregon Department of Education's guidance continues to evolve with tightened coronavirus precautions, local school districts are learning to roll with the punches.

Posted: Jul 22, 2020 4:40 PM
Updated: Jul 22, 2020 5:24 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Some southern Oregon school districts have already begun to roll out drafts of their back-to-school plans, but new Oregon Department of Education guidance released Wednesday sent a clear signal that the state's requirements will continue to evolve — forcing districts to adapt on the fly.

Governor Kate Brown announced that face covering requirements in the state will be expanded to include children 5 and older, and ODE incorporated this new mandate into its latest guidance for schools. It's unlikely to be the last major chance before school begins.

Medford School District Superintendent Dr. Bret Champion held a meeting with local media shortly after the ODE announcement, fielding questions about the District's plans going forward:

Kids and the new face covering requirement

Dr. Champion acknowledged concerns that younger kids might resist face coverings. MSD will be purchasing face masks and face shields for all students in the district, and on-site schedules will include "face covering breaks" outside for kids, particularly the younger ones.

Indoor gathering limit of 100 and how it applies to schools

For elementary school students — who MSD plans to have in school full-time — the existing building and transportation plans would keep capacity in a given area below 100, Dr. Champion said. Transportation and meals pose the greatest challenge, and MSD has been consulting with health officials on how to proceed.

Will ODE guidance change right before school starts?

As plans evolve, parameters can change, Dr. Champion said. The District is hoping for clear guidelines sooner rather than later to decided whether to proceed with on-site learning. If learning is moved remotely at ODE's insistence, districts need to know as soon as possible.

What are Oregon's metrics for allowing on-site learning?

"That's the million dollar question, and we need to know that as soon as possible." MSD is ready to pivot, but Oregon's metrics have yet to be revealed. California has some metrics in place. Dr. Champion says that he is gathering more feedback from staff and parents, and begs for people to have patience with the District.

'Back to class, but not back to school'

Educators are suggesting that ODE consider guidance in the state by region, so that places with a lower risk of coronavirus have added latitude for returning to school. Dr. Champion said that he expects that to be a factor in the metrics.

Backup plans for transportation and meal times

MSD is considering installation of plexiglass on buses to improve safety. The District does not have enough buses to keep students 6 feet apart at all times. MSD is also evaluating walk-to-school options.

The District is also looking at other options for meals — perhaps having students eat in classrooms, "grab and go" lunches, and other possibilities.

Class sizes and social distancing

Dr. Champion says that staff have checked every classroom in the district to determine capacity with ODE's requirement that every student have 35 square feet of room. For elementary schools without enough space, 5th and 6th graders will be moved to a new location to allow for more room at elementary schools.

Likelihood of distance-only learning in the fall

"Nothing is off the table." If classes are totally digital, the strategy will be "ten times better" than it was at the end of spring. Dr. Champion said that the adjustment worked in spring, but MSD learned from the experience and will have a better digital learning experience ready in the fall.

MSD is working on strategies to help those that struggle most with distance learning.

Parents can also opt to have their children enroll in online-only learning with "Medford Online."

Sports and extracurriculars

OSAA is set to provide more guidance later this week. Some contact sports may be delayed until spring, as Washington state has done, but MSD doesn't know yet what OSAA will propose.

Normal face covering and distancing guidelines will apply to sports.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 387485

Reported Deaths: 5116
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah59768836
Washington41571393
Marion39592504
Clackamas32426376
Lane29856354
Jackson24672350
Deschutes23182185
Umatilla15087180
Linn14488178
Douglas13236286
Josephine10057240
Yamhill9665142
Klamath8979145
Polk813698
Benton605137
Malheur591586
Coos5573106
Columbia423855
Jefferson416865
Lincoln357252
Union336854
Crook330156
Wasco314846
Clatsop258335
Baker217531
Tillamook214345
Hood River211337
Morrow197025
Curry190136
Harney119332
Grant108314
Lake104016
Wallowa74713
Sherman1903
Gilliam1844
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5060666

Reported Deaths: 74152
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152491227121
San Diego4047084319
Riverside3849455306
San Bernardino3718825944
Orange3329505675
Sacramento1674002423
Kern1565171781
Fresno1558992246
Santa Clara1511691922
Alameda1246581504
San Joaquin1070001833
Ventura1036461188
Contra Costa1032921045
Stanislaus912991413
Tulare856141082
San Francisco56614669
San Mateo56058629
Monterey52340625
Solano47422356
Santa Barbara47035548
Merced44807664
Sonoma42912412
Placer41881468
Imperial38128769
Kings35038358
San Luis Obispo31294358
Madera26005311
Shasta25917440
Butte25295309
Santa Cruz22028222
Yolo21451257
Marin18342248
El Dorado18166161
Sutter14494181
Napa13372104
Yuba1070088
Tehama10230129
Humboldt10043117
Nevada9914103
Mendocino848894
Lassen792355
San Benito775977
Tuolumne767790
Lake6990110
Amador573766
Siskiyou470954
Glenn455136
Calaveras435685
Del Norte371242
Colusa323519
Inyo254345
Plumas19127
Mono18294
Mariposa156718
Trinity98817
Modoc7475
Unassigned2430
Sierra2170
Alpine1060
Out of CA00
Medford
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Fog and stagnant air in the valleys, dry and mild weather continues into Monday
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