PHOENIX, Ore. — The Phoenix-Talent School District is considering a return to full in-person classes after receiving a special dispensation from the Oregon Department of Education earlier this month.
Superintendent Brent Barry addressed families and the community in an update last week, letting them know about the ODE emergency waiver.
"The trauma caused by the wildfire and students’ need for social-emotional and mental health support was a driving factor for the emergency waiver," Barry said. "For many of these students, the safest place in the community is at school."
Barry said that the District would be talking with staff and families — sending out a survey — before going ahead with a transition back to in-person learning.
"The announcement of the waiver comes with conflicting emotions for most of us: excitement to see and work with students on-site AND worry about the spread of COVID-19," Barry continued. "As we plan for in-person learning, the safety, health, and well-being of our students and staff are our top priorities."
Phoenix-Talent is one of three districts in the state to receive a full emergency waiver. Other local districts — including Ashland, Eagle Point, Klamath County, Three Rivers, and Medford — received a more limited in-person instruction waiver that only covers students who were displaced due to a loss of their home or remain in a Level 3 evacuation zone.
The waiver also comes with stipulations that the schools, in cooperation with county public health officials, fully comply with state health and safety guidelines, provide free COVID-19 testing when possible, and keep providing distance learning options for students and families who do not want to return.
Barry said that the district's Fire Relief Fund has received over $1 million in donations for the families of students who lost their homes, with $400,000 already distributed.
"Through a new partnership with Rogue Retreat, we have also helped facilitate the donation of ten RVs/campers for PTS families, with five more in the donation process," Barry said. "Thank you Phoenix Talent community!"