PORTLAND, Ore. — At a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Kate Brown announced that Oregon school buildings will remain shuttered through the end of the academic year. The previous closure was set to end on April 28.
The Governor said that the decision arose from an obligation to give parents, educators and students certainty about the rest of the school year.
In the meantime, school staff will continue to work on methods of remote learning for students that are stuck at home during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
“We have Oregon’s students at the forefront of every decision we make about education,” said Governor Brown. “Their health, happiness, and safety is our priority. The best thing we can do for the health of our children, and for the thousands of educators across the state, is to give everyone certainty by announcing the decision today to close in-person classes for the remainder of the school year. School, and learning, will continue as best as we can using remote means.”
Districts were already aware of the prospect that closures could through the end of the year. Addressing superintendents and principals at the end of March, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) director Colt Gill noted that there was a "strong possibility" this would be the case, directing districts to develop their own remote programs to connect with students instead.
"I know how hard this is on every single Oregonian," said Governor Brown of the state's COVID-19 restrictions. "I also know that the measures we have put into place are necessary actions to save lives."
For high school seniors, Brown said that the Oregon Department of Education has a plan in place to honor the work that students have done through March. All seniors who were on-track to graduate will receive passing grades for their remaining courses and receive a diploma, she said.
For students who were not on-track to pass courses for graduation, Brown insisted that local school districts help to develop alternative learning plans for those seniors to help them succeed in graduating on time.
Almost simultaneously with the press conference, ODE released a statement with a link to "Graduation Pathways 2020," the agency's official guidance for graduating seniors.
“COVID-19 won’t knock Oregon’s students off their path to graduation,” ODE's Colt Gill said. “This guidance assures our students’ hard earned futures even during this global challenge.”
Gill underscored that the amount of time and learning lost to COVID-19 represented less than two percent of a senior's tenure in education, and shouldn't be held against them.
Brown said that she refuses to "punish students" for outside events affecting the completion of their education. She said that no students hoping to attend Oregon public higher education should have any barriers to entry based on COVID-19's effect on their graduation or high school curriculum.
Oregon's seven public universities and OHSU issued the following statement, in part:
"No student admitted to our institutions for fall 2020 will have their admission rescinded due to changes in grading policy or the inability to complete their coursework, as long as they graduate high school. Students who apply to our institutions are still subject to a review process that focuses on their ability to succeed in college, but the Oregon public universities recognize that some situations are beyond their control."
The Governor also heralded an extended executive order for distance learning through the end of the year at colleges and universities.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.