State officials relent, giving Malheur County schools more options to put kids in classrooms

Jordan Valley High School (Rachel Parsons/The Enterprise)

[NOTE: The Enterprise is providing free access to local stories concerning the pandemic. You can help provide this service by subscribing. ]

Malheur County schools now have the option to teach some students at school under new guidelines announced Tuesday by the Oregon Department of Education.

The amended rules also will allow the county’s smallest school systems to operate in their buildings despite the county’s continuing struggles with the spreading coronavirus.

The changes came after rural school executives and area legislators pressed state officials to reconsider strict limits that will keep most Oregon students out of the classroom as the school year starts.

Schools will now be allowed to hold classes in person for students in career and technical education programs and for students who are English language learners or who have disabilities. Classes, though, can hold no more than 10 students under new guidance released by the Oregon Department of Education Aug. 11.

The classes can be held if there have been no confirmed Covid cases among staff or students over the previous two weeks and if the schools follow six-feet social distancing and mandated mask guidelines.

The guidance also allows schools with less than 75 students to open if they are far enough away from any Covid outbreaks as decided by Malheur County Health Department. That would cover Jordan Valley, which had 65 students last year, Juntura, which had 3, and Arock, which had 17.

Previously, rural schools couldn’t hold classes in person if the county had more than 30 cases per 100,000 residents.

Jordan Valley’s 97910 ZIP code has seen no Covid, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.

The guidance also changes the threshold for Vale, Nyssa and Ontario schools to reopen. Now, since Malheur County has a small population density, the county can have up to 30 new cases over three weeks and still reopen schools. Previously, the county could not have more than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over three weeks and still reopen schools.

Malheur County saw 294 new cases in the three weeks between July 19 and August 2, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Based on state and county data, this chart shows the gap between what the state is allowing for new Covid cases for schools to open and the recent track of cases in Malheur County (Aidan McGloin/Enterprise graphic)


Rural schools in Malheur County could get help from group’s work on state Covid restrictions

Current Covid numbers show most Malheur county schools can’t reopen in the fall

Local school district officials react to new Covid benchmarks

News tip? Contact reporter Aidan McGloin at [email protected] or at 541-235-1005.


Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE – $5 a month, automatically. DONATE – to provide additional support.