KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Both of Klamath County's school districts are preparing for a full return to in-person learning next month, following Governor Kate Brown's stunning reversal of state policy last week.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Brown announced that school districts could navigate a return to in-person learning based on their own judgment of local conditions — altering previous guidelines that prohibited in-person learning amid elevated COVID-19 spread in each county to be "advisory rather than mandatory."
A joint statement from Klamath County School District and Klamath Falls City Schools on Monday described little consternation about the choice to shoot for all-ages return to in-person learning. County public health officials advised only a 10-day waiting period after winter break due to current high case counts and an anticipated spike after the holidays.
As a result, January 11 will be the first day for in-person learning. All students will first begin the new year on Monday, January 4, with a week of distance learning before transitioning into classrooms.
“The district has been working with public health since September to keep students in school to the maximum degree possible. It will be good to finally get back to all students having the opportunity to do in-person instruction,” said Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District.
Paul Hillyer, superintendent of the Klamath Falls City Schools, echoed Szymoniak.
“We are extremely excited to be able to offer in-person instruction to all our students once again,” Hillyer said. “This is an exciting development that will help students academically, socially, and emotionally. It will also be exciting for our staff who have so much missed the day-to-day interaction with students."
Students throughout Klamath County fell back to full comprehensive distance learning at the end of November, as cases spiked within the county and ran afoul of state metrics. January 11 will mark to first return to in-person learning since that time.
“We will continue to work closely Klamath County Public Health, the Oregon Department of Education, and Oregon Health Authority to ensure our decision-making process remains grounded in sound science, public health, and student, staff, and community safety,” Szymoniak said.
Students and families who are not comfortable returning to classrooms will still be offered virtual options, district officials said.