MEDFORD, Ore. — Despite multiple southern Oregon counties moving to Extreme Risk restrictions on Friday, state education officials say that schools do not necessarily need to reduce their current levels of in-person learning.
Local districts have been transitioning to full-time (or nearly full-time) learning in the classroom over the past several months, after Oregon officials embraced new CDC guidelines to reduce spacing requirements. The Medford School District welcomed back its final group of older students on April 12.
The long process of bringing more students into the classroom started at a time before COVID-19 case rates began rising again, in what Governor Brown has called a "fourth wave" of the virus. Jackson County Public Health said on Tuesday that there were 600 new cases over the last two weeks, marking a case rate not seen since the beginning of January.
Regardless, state education officials said that the rise in case rates won't necessarily require any changes at southern Oregon schools.
"Schools should not reduce in-person instruction or revert to [comprehensive distance learning] based on county metrics if the school can demonstrate the ability to limit transmission in the school environment," said Peter Rudy, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education.
Even if county case rates rise to a new tier on ODE's chart, the state will not mandate any change. Instead, pausing any further expansion of in-person learning is "recommended."
Schools are also not required to change the classroom spacing requirements even in the higher case rate tiers, and they are allowed to remain with 3 feet of physical distancing instead of the prior 6 feet.
Rudy said that local public health officials can, in cooperation with school district leadership, opt to change physical distancing requirements in response to an outbreak at a particular school.