Getting schools open in Malheur County – your guide

Desks and chairs are stacked in a classroom at Alameda Elementary School in Ontario in early 2020. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons)

Here are the key elements that will lead to Malheur County schools returning to normal operations.

Key change 1: State health metrics until now restricted when schools could open. Beginning Jan. 1, the metrics are advisory, meaning they no longer come with the possibility of state enforcement. Other state requirements remain in place.

Key change 2: Local health and school officials now control the decision on whether particular schools should open even if coronavirus numbers in Malheur County pose a high health risk. The decision will be made at the school district level. The three numbers set by the state covering a two-week period that until now required remote learning:

•Covid infections was greater than 200 per 100,000. Malheur rate: 637

•More than 60 cases reported over two weeks. Most recent total: 204

•Positive rate of Covid tests greater than 10%. Most recent: 15.4%

No change: The state’s other standards for schools don’t change, although these could be updated.

•Screening: Check students and staff for symptoms suggesting possible Covid infection.

•Social distancing: Require spacing of 6 feet between students and staff.

•Masks: Required inside the school building.

•Class size: Limited by space – 35 square feet is need for each student and teacher in the room.

•Quarantine: An infection in one group could trigger quarantine for entire class.

What’s new:

•Schools have to ensure enough staff to operate schools.

•Covid testing will be done in schools, but only on those showing symptoms or otherwise exposed.

•School systems are protected from Covid-related liability if they are following health protocols.

•Schools would have access to $50 million from the state to cover pandemic costs under a request pending from the governor.

•Teachers and other school employees will get priority for Covid vaccinations.

Source: Gov. Kate Brown’s office, Oregon Department of Education


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