Gov. Kate Brown Orders Reopening of Oregon Public Schools by mid-April


Clarion photo Stella Tinker

Cleveland High School, alongside public schools statewide, will open their doors to students this Spring as mandated by Gov. Kate Brown

By Lena Tinker, News Editor

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced this afternoon that Oregon public schools will resume either full or hybrid in-person instruction by mid-April.

With the anniversary of  the closure of Oregon schools rapidly approaching, there are mixed emotions among students and staff at schools statewide. 

“As a senior, I’m really looking forward to having the chance to be in the building again, and to see my teachers and friends! It will be nice to receive some closure to my high school experience,” said Cleveland senior Anna Sherwood. 

In the wake of all but six Oregon counties meeting or exceeding Oregon’s advisory metrics for in-person, hybrid instruction came Governor Brown’s announcement. Brown discussed the qualities that enable the reopening of schools in a letter to Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Department of Education (ODE) leaders: a continuation of adherence to health and safety protocols detailed in Oregon’s mandatory Ready Schools, Safe Learners (RSSL) guidelines, a statewide rapid testing program for schools, and accelerated vaccinations of the educator workforce. 

Additionally, Brown described the possible use of state and federal funds to “purchase personal protective equipment for educators, students, and staff, upgrade ventilation systems, and implement health and safety measures.”

In her letter, Brown wrote that she is following executive actions to ensure access to in-person instruction for K-5 students on or before the week of March 29, 2021, and for students grades 6-12 on or before the week of April 19, 2021. 

A Portland Public Schools (PPS) communication sent earlier today to families districtwide recognized the flexibility, creativity, and understanding of the PPS community over the past year. PPS awaits guidance from Kate Brown and the ODE pertaining to reopening guidelines, and will share further information with the PPS community as it is received.  

Senior Joey Vollert said, “I’m excited that schools are reopening as I imagine that being back in the building will have a positive effect on the mental health of students. However, there is a possibility that reopening schools will create inequities; those who don’t feel comfortable coming back to school won’t get the same experience, social and educational, as those who are able to come back.” 

Vollert is not alone in his concerns. OPB reports that Oregon’s teachers union remains concerned about the safety of reopening schools, expressing the need to center student equity in the process. While Brown writes that she supports the rights of employees to collectively bargain, especially pertaining to their safe working conditions, she put a firm end to the speculative reopening conversations.

Brown wrote, “Whether or not public schools should return kids to the classroom this spring is no longer up for discussion: the science and data is clear, schools can return to in-person instruction with a very low risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly with a vaccinated workforce.”