Portland middle school schedules clarified, rural district pushes to reopen high school: The week in education

In late July, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said students may not see the inside of a classroom for months if the state didn’t curb steadily rising coronavirus infections.

For much of August, the average daily rate of new cases steadily fell until it hit a season low in mid-September. Then, rates started to climb.

New state modeling shows what Oregon health officials call a “discouraging” trend as the most optimistic scenario forecasts an average of 800 new cases per day by Oct. 22, or about 19 per 100,000 residents.

That’s nearly double the threshold state health and education officials set for all of Oregon’s students to return to in-person instruction.

Those rising infection rates have dashed some districts’ hopes of allowing their students back into classrooms, most notably in Lane and Douglas counties, where spikes in case counts scuttled districts’ hopes of a state-sanctioned reopening.

Here are some of the biggest education stories from across the state:

Education stories from the Portland area:

Portland Public Schools officials offered a mea culpa over what they say was “fuzzy” communication regarding middle school schedules that had parents wondering why their children were only guaranteed 4 1/2 hours of live synchronous instruction per week.

Chief of Schools Shawn Bird told The Oregonian/Oregonlive that some teachers and principals interpreted the schedules to mean they were only allowed to offer three live, whole-class lessons per day on Monday and Tuesday.

“It was fuzzy and I take responsibility for it,” he said. “Hopefully we’re all on the same page now.”

And across the state:

For five consecutive weeks, Douglas County saw fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, clearing the bar set by the state to offer in-person instruction for all of its students. (With various distancing and cohorting measures in place.)

On Sept. 9, the Winston-Dillard school board voted to reopen Douglas High. The following week, case counts began to spike.

Still, Superintendent Kevin Miller wants to forge ahead with reopening against the recommendation of state health and education officials. The situation provides insight on the lack of clarity over how state officials plan to handle school districts that decide to flout their guidelines and open for in-person instruction despite exceeding state limits for coronavirus cases per capita.

From the education reporter’s inbox:

Oregon State University’s College of Science is hosting a town hall focusing on Black students’ experiences at the school. The event is a collaboration between the college’s Student Anti-Racism Coalition, the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center and the university’s educational opportunities program. The town hall will take place Thursday at 5 p.m. over Zoom.

Friday is an inservice day for Portland Public Schools, so the district is providing more meals at its 38 distribution sites on Monday and Wednesday to make up for the lost day. The district’s to-go meals are free to anyone 18 and younger for the rest of the calendar year under an expansion of the federal school meals program enacted earlier this summer. Friday meal service will resume on Oct. 16.

More education headlines from The Oregonian/OregonLive:

Portland Public Schools psychologists feel stretched thin, say reassignments inequitable as district adjusts fall staffing

Eugene elementary school teacher named Oregon teacher of the year (The Associated Press)

School reopenings linked to increase in coronavirus cases among U.S. children (The Associated Press)

Education coverage from other Portland-area media:

With school cafeterias closed, Oregon sends school lunch money to needy families (OPB)

For Tigard-Tualatin district, it’s a different kind of school year (The Tigard Tualatin Sherwood Times, subscription)

Riverdale schools see changes in administrative staff (The Lake Oswego Review, subscription)

Forest Grove Schools tackling virtual learning challenges head-on (The Forest Grove News-Times, subscription)

Washington County student named finalist as a top young scientist (The Beaverton Valley Times, subscription)

And across the state:

Umpqua Community College holds virtual ceremony to commemorate campus shooting (The News-Review, subscription)

College students’ expectations, self-confidence major predictors for how they fare in remote learning, study shows (The North Coast Citizen)

Fairgrounds will house childcare center and oversee young students (The Herald and News, Klamath Falls)

K-3 students return to school (The Nugget, Sisters)

Colton Middle School offers respite for firefighters (The Molalla Pioneer, subscription)

–Eder Campuzano

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