10 questions parents have about school re-entry in Oregon during COVID

School districts across Oregon are beginning to re-open their brick-and-mortar buildings for in-person learning, even though COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are far greater than they were when schools originally closed their doors last spring. 

Now that teachers qualify for vaccines and protocols are in place to mitigate as many risks as possible, state officials have allowed more schools to begin re-entry.

Salem-Keizer Public Schools hopes to have its youngest students back in classrooms at least part-time later this month, and all students back by mid-April.

But parents and educators still have a lot of questions. 

Re-entry: Salem-Keizer’s youngest students could be back on campus in February

Thomas Jeanne, a state health officer and epidemiologist, joined Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, Wednesday for a virtual Q&A regarding COVID-19 and the state’s plans for school re-entry. 

To date, 143,978 cases have been reported statewide. Over the past two weeks, Jeanne said, Oregon has seen a “dramatic decline” in daily cases, positive cases and hospitalizations.

As of Tuesday, Oregon’s seven-day case rate was the third-lowest in the nation, he said.

Blanchet Catholic School Junior Damien Cardenas follows along during U.S. History on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 in Salem, Oregon.

Gill said about 100,000 students statewide are currently attending school in-person to some degree.

The Oregon Department of Education continues to update its protocols, outlined in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance.

The department released a number of changes Jan. 19, including more lenient county metrics recommended before individual districts can begin any form of school re-entry. Those that open without meeting the metrics are required to have COVID testing on site.