One of the larger Oregon school districts preparing to reopen ahead of Gov. Kate Brown’s target date of Feb. 15 now says it will have to delay bringing kids back to campus until after that. Administrators in the suburban Lake Oswego district are also pumping the brakes on reopening, but haven’t announced how long they’ll delay.
Administrators in the 7,000-student Redmond School District announced Friday that COVID-19 case numbers remain too high to open on Feb. 2 as announced earlier this month. In a statement signed by Superintendent Charan Cline, the district said schools won’t start opening until Feb. 22.
“We know this is disappointing for many families,” Cline said in the announcement.
Related: Gov. Brown clarifies vaccination timeline, doubles down on priority for teachers
Cline said that case counts are over 410 per 100,000 people in Deschutes County, which is significantly above the ceiling set in the state’s advisory Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidelines.
“When we settled on our Feb. 2 date to return to in-person learning, we did so with the promise that we would keep an eye on local COVID-19 case counts not just in our county, but in Redmond and in our schools,” Charan said. “Unfortunately, the numbers are not dropping like we’d hoped they would.”
Part of the decision was also the revelation this week that the St. Charles Hospital in Redmond had a COVID-19 outbreak affecting 31 people, which Charan said shows “the virus is still very active in our town.”
Related: Redmond School District statement regarding reopening plan
Late Friday a Portland-area school district that was among the region’s first to plan a significant reopening, signaled it would be delaying its plans to reopen. The Lake Oswego School District, which had also planned to start resuming in-person instruction in early February, said it’s planning to slow down that move, without offering a new timeline.
“After listening to compelling rationale from our teachers and staff, consulting with our local public health authorities, coordinating with vaccine distribution leads, and weighing operational logistics, LOSD needs to change the start for returning elementary students to a later date in February,” said superintendent Lora de la Cruz in a message to community members. “I will share a new timeline as soon as possible.”
The announcements from the Redmond and Lake Oswego school districts came the same day that the governor held a press conference to defend her decision to prioritize vaccinations for teachers. She said that move is intended to help schools reopen, though she acknowledged it’s not the only requirement for students and staff to return to classrooms safely.
Some public health experts, medical ethicists and even teachers have questioned the decision to vaccinate educators before seniors or other vulnerable groups.
De La Cruz in Lake Oswego noted the importance of vaccinating teachers in her message, and said that local health officials advised the delay, “while cases of COVID-19 continue trending downward.”
In Redmond, Cline expressed appreciation for prioritizing vaccines for teachers, calling it “good news.” Redmond’s new target date for reopening schools is three weeks later than initially hoped.
“By delaying the return of students to in-person learning until the week of Feb. 22, we can feel more comfortable knowing that staff and teachers have been fully vaccinated,” Cline said.