Oregon education officials okay reduced classroom spacing, with some caveats

The Oregon Department of Education issued its new guidance on Monday to align with the CDC's updated recommendations.

Posted: Mar 22, 2021 12:43 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2021 7:26 PM

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Education released its updated guidance for classroom spacing on Monday to reflect new recommendations from the CDC issued at the end of last week.

Oregon school districts have been eagerly awaiting the updated plan from education officials, which is necessary for any public school to proceed with the CDC's change from six feet to three feet of required space for each student. The spacing change is expected to allow many schools to abandon hybrid learning in favor of full-time instruction on campus.

“This shift will take time to digest, partner with staff, and integrate in many schools and districts. I know our educators have spent countless hours over the last year stretching to implement different learning models and safety protocols. It is my hope you maintain your spring break as a short time for renewal and come together after the break to plan together on how best to incorporate these changes,” said ODE Director Colt Gill.

However, ODE's new plan is not without caveats. Elementary schools will be able to make the shift to three feet of spacing "to the maximum extent possible" without equivocation, but classrooms in middle and high school will be beholden to county case rates. This requirement largely aligns with the CDC's update, which called for more spacing in upper grades when counties are seeing higher rates of spread.

For both middle and high schools, the reduction to three feet of physical distance is allowed when the county case rate is below 200 per 100,000 people. If the county case rate is 200 or more per 100,000 people, six feet of distancing will be required.

The updated guidance also requires that schools maintain six feet between staff at all times, and six feet between staff and students "to the maximum extent possible."

A previous requirement that each student have 35 square-feet of space around them in the classroom has been removed in the new guidance, something that multiple southern Oregon superintendents said would be key to returning with full-time learning.

“With the new recommendations for physical distancing from the CDC, I know I join students, parents, and educators across Oregon in welcoming the news that months of scientific research clearly demonstrates the risk of COVID-19 transmission is low in schools,” said Governor Kate Brown. “As with so many aspects of our lives this year, schools will not be able to return to normal overnight, as districts will need time to work with parents, educators, and staff to create plans at the local level to implement this updated guidance."

In a brief preliminary statement, the Medford School District said that it would be able to begin implementing the reduced spacing at elementary schools, but Jackson County's case rates would not allow for the same to occur at middle and high schools for the time being.

For schools that are cleared to begin the transition to reduced spacing, ODE underlined that the decision will be handled locally. School administrators will be charged with making the decision, and can choose to maintain six feet of spacing under many conditions.

ODE said that it may several weeks for schools to make the transition and adjust to new requirements.

“Given this new and important progression in the science and standards, as set by the CDC, for schools during COVID-19; some schools and districts may wish to consider new models for Hybrid and new opportunities for fully On-Site instructional models," Gill said. "I strongly encourage school districts and schools to take the time they need to collaborate across school administrators, teachers and staff to convene school planning teams to review the new requirements and recommendations and to consider updating your school’s Operational Blueprint to reflect any changes you will make under the new guidance.”

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 359733

Reported Deaths: 4295
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah56103709
Washington39002324
Marion37013454
Clackamas29983309
Lane27945302
Jackson23165310
Deschutes20559125
Umatilla14521150
Linn13048131
Douglas12196250
Josephine9430197
Yamhill8752113
Klamath8081119
Polk740581
Malheur565278
Benton555331
Coos507894
Columbia386044
Jefferson379553
Lincoln324239
Union321149
Crook293946
Wasco291141
Clatsop244728
Baker204129
Tillamook197932
Hood River194737
Morrow185723
Curry181325
Harney114427
Grant100213
Lake94812
Wallowa69312
Gilliam1564
Sherman1523
Wheeler1101
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4855616

Reported Deaths: 71443
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148576926552
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3682674196
San Bernardino3586775720
Orange3251235578
Sacramento1596362313
Kern1472941652
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921415
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus867381338
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924354
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766788
Lassen761848
San Benito744974
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa137017
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
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