GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Spurred by the rising rate of coronavirus cases in Josephine County, Three Rivers School District anounced on Monday that it will return K-12 students to comprehensive distance learning next week.
Under Oregon's school metrics, a county must remain under 200 new positive cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in population over a two-week period. Josephine County Public Health confirmed to Three Rivers on Monday that the area has surpassed that benchmark, mandating the transition.
“Unfortunately, the new metrics push us well past the required numbers to remain open for in-person instruction,” said Three Rivers Superintendent Dave Valenzuela. “We know that having students in the classroom is the best way for kids to learn, so to say we’re disappointed to be returning to distance learning at home would be an understatement.”
The Grants Pass School District made a similar announcement last week, citing public health officials' concerns that case rates would only rise after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Our school and district leaders have been doing everything possible to get our kids back into the building,” said Board Chair Jennifer Johnstun. “The work now is on us, the larger community, to take the necessary steps to bring down our COVID numbers so we can get our kids back."
Three Rivers said that it would use this week to make sure that students have the electronic devices, sign-on information, and experience needed with the software that they'll be using at home. It will be a new experience for K-3 kids, though grades 4-12 have done distance learning previously.
“We expect this transition to CDL for all grades to be a relatively smooth process thanks to the hard work already done at the beginning of the school year,” said Director of Technology Rob Saunders.
Administrators estimate that the District will be on distance learning until at least January 7, and case rates would still need to drop before then.
“We must all do our part by wearing masks, washing hands, watching our distance, and limiting our travel,” said Valenzuela. “These steps aren’t political, they’re personal, and they are the difference between keeping kids in the classroom or being forced to keep them at home.”