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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: 206299

Reported Deaths: 2750
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40280614
Washington26740248
Marion23370323
Clackamas18872235
Lane13862162
Jackson11518146
Deschutes998682
Umatilla859287
Linn557280
Klamath477478
Yamhill477379
Polk397755
Douglas385881
Malheur361163
Josephine357572
Benton325422
Jefferson236339
Coos216637
Columbia190829
Union149124
Wasco143830
Lincoln142721
Crook128923
Hood River121933
Morrow115316
Clatsop10449
Baker100915
Curry70111
Tillamook6604
Grant5487
Lake4678
Harney4309
Wallowa1945
Gilliam761
Sherman671
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3806465

Reported Deaths: 63274
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124703324444
Riverside3015434625
San Bernardino2991864811
San Diego2815313771
Orange2729225109
Santa Clara1200322187
Kern1107341402
Sacramento1075601730
Fresno1028671722
Alameda895621272
Ventura816091030
San Joaquin746291438
Contra Costa70478810
Stanislaus633871069
Tulare49799849
Monterey43831421
San Mateo42615581
San Francisco37243556
Santa Barbara34593455
Solano33673266
Merced32284477
Sonoma30825323
Imperial28801741
Placer23477299
Kings23185247
San Luis Obispo21421261
Madera16618245
Santa Cruz16232208
Marin14185229
Yolo14141212
Butte12644194
Shasta12630233
El Dorado10363116
Napa1001480
Sutter9650113
Yuba646451
San Benito610963
Lassen578424
Tehama572763
Nevada490375
Humboldt446248
Mendocino430650
Tuolumne420771
Amador373147
Lake356345
Glenn243027
Siskiyou239337
Colusa228418
Calaveras220156
Del Norte14548
Inyo143438
Mono12954
Plumas7366
Modoc5565
Mariposa4657
Trinity4225
Sierra1130
Alpine890
Unassigned400
Medford
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