On the first day back from spring break for Oregon students, Gov. Kate Brown hosted a Facebook Live event to mark the week she directed schools to open their doors for in-person instruction for elementary students.

“It’s truly a moment worth celebrating,” Brown said. “I know students, parents, educators, all of us, have been looking forward to this for months.”

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Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said before spring break, more than one-third of Oregon students were receiving some in-person instruction.

That number is likely to increase as more students begin returning to school buildings. But there are still thousands of students remaining in distance learning, or not yet attending school in-person.

An image of a computer screen shows Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaking in front of flags on the left of the screen, while a man in a separate window to the right provides sign-language interpretation.

Gov. Kate Brown shared a message Monday, March 29, the mark the "official" return to in-person instruction for Oregon students.

Elizabeth Miller

Brown and Gill shared a message of support and reassurance to Oregonians that schools are safe, and ready for students.

“It is time to go back to our school buildings,” Gill said. “We can do this with confidence and with safety. We know how to pivot if conditions change unexpectedly.”

But they also highlighted that school is not like it was in March 2020, before schools closed due to COVID-19.

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From mask and distance requirements to contact tracing in case of a COVID-19 outbreak, things do look different. Even with schools reopening, thousands of Oregon students continue in some distance learning.

The ongoing conversation around reopening — whether it’s safe, whether students should be back in school buildings full-time — continues. As Brown spoke, Facebook comments rolled in, representing all sides of the conversation.

Brown’s video also included messages from two Oregon superintendents and a student.

South Coast Education Service District Superintendent Tenneal Wetherell spoke highly of schools in her region that have been open for in-person instruction and adhered to the state’s safety measures.

“We’re happy to report that while our schools have had COVID-19 positive cases, we’ve had little to no spread among staff and students,” Wetherell said. “The safety measures really work.”

In a produced video, Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry shared that almost 14,000 elementary students have returned to school buildings over the last several weeks.

“We’ll have all students in a hybrid model by the start of fourth quarter,” Perry said.

Yosalin, a student at South Medford High School and a member of the Governor’s Healthy Schools Reopening Council, also spoke. Hybrid instruction for middle and high school students started in the Medford School District Monday.

“This year, I missed out on a lot of my senior traditions, but that’s the least of my concerns,” Yosalin said. “Traditions can always be remade. ... Starting on March 29th, we get to make so many new school traditions.”

Looking ahead, Brown highlighted a $250 million funding package for summer programming introduced earlier this month, “so that this summer school districts across Oregon can offer expanded summer learning and enrichment opportunities to help all of our students learn, heal, and have fun.”

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