Public schools will not reopen again this school year as the state strives to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, Governor Kate Brown announced on Wednesday.
Arya Surowidjojo / OPB
In a widely anticipated move, Brown extended the closure of a school in March after its April 28 expiration, ensuring that students and teachers will not meet in person until the summer recess.
“This decision is important because it concerns safety,” Brown said at a press conference in which physical presence was strictly limited. “It is above all to protect our children and our teachers. Social distancing is impossible to adhere to in our classrooms and schools. “
Brown also announced new Oregon Department of Education guidelines for older graduates. The rules guarantee that students will graduate on time if the elderly have to pass their courses. The guide also requests that teachers work with students who had difficulties before the schools closed on March 12, so that they can also receive diplomas.
This could involve students working with school districts until August to try to reach success, said ODE director Colt Gill.
“We want them to know one thing for sure. That’s what we believe in them, “said Gill of the Oregon seniors. “We know they can succeed. “
In response to the reporter’s question, Brown also announced a notable change involving a new vocational tax to pay for Oregon’s K-12 schools.
In anticipation of an additional $ 1 billion a year to pay for services across the state, school districts are preparing to hire new employees. But in the face of declining state revenues that could reach $ 3 billion over the two-year budget cycle, the state has told districts to “put these plans on hold,” said Brown.
The move was the first public indication of a discreet move by the governor in recent days: to implement a hiring freeze on “non-critical” vacancies in state agencies.
Brown’s decision to extend the school’s closure, which is scheduled to last for weeks, follows Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement Monday that his state’s public schools will be closed for the year. The Idaho State Council for Education also made a similar decision on Monday. This comes as Oregon officials expressed cautious optimism that a March 23 “stay at home” order has helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
State health officials on Wednesday afternoon reported 1,181 confirmed cases of the disease in the state, as well as 33 deaths. But while the number of cases has reliably increased every day, modeling suggests that state health resources will not be exceeded if they continue on the current trajectory.
Closing schools does not mean that students will not receive any education by the end of the school year. Last month, the Oregon Department of Education released a “distance education for all” plan that aims to ensure that state districts continue to teach students in recent unprecedented times . The districts have used this orientation with mixed success.
State tests had already been canceled for the year.
It is still unclear whether school districts will have to cancel state graduation ceremonies. Gill said officials were waiting to see what would happen with the coronavirus before making an official decision.
Brown’s announcement has received approval from public school officials. Julia Brim-Edwards, a member of the Portland public school board, called on the governor to close school buildings and support distance education in a Wednesday morning tweet when the decision seemed imminent.
For the health of our community: @OregonGovBrown pls CLOSE SCHOOL BUILDINGS for the rest of the school year …. AND support distance learning! @PPSConnect @ORDeptEd @ORDeptED_Colt @Super_GGuerrero @edercampuzano @OPBnews @ llmiller12 pic.twitter.com/GcTjtt1Zwc
– Julia Brim-Edwards (@BrimJulia) April 8, 2020
Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, said in a statement that he supported the governor’s decision to impose general conditions for graduation.
“We firmly believe in local control, but in these unprecedented circumstances, a state-wide approach is both fair and cuts red tape,” said Green, noting that he was “sad »That the graduation ceremonies be canceled. “This step now gives students and schools the certainty that these very important degrees have been obtained and are in the process of being issued.”
This story will be updated.