Portland Public Schools Will Hold Online Only Classes Through at Least Nov. 5

Oregon schools won't open to in-person instruction unless cases sharply decline.

Portland Public Schools will hold online classes through at least Nov. 5, the district announced July 28 after it became clear that Portland schools—public and private—are unlikely to open anytime soon.

"It is possible that, unless COVID-19 conditions improve significantly, online learning will extend into the second quarter," wrote Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero in an email to parents. "It will be some time before students can return to their schools, but the health and wellness of our children, youth and employees have to come first."

To begin having in-person classes, at least for kindergarten through third-grade students, Multnomah County would need to reduce its number of new COVID-19 cases by more than 40%, and for a full reopening, the cases would need to decline more significantly under state criteria announced today.

The case count would need to stay at that level for three consecutive weeks.

Gov. Kate Brown laid out the requirements for a reopening in-person classes at a July 28 press conference.

Statewide, Oregon does not currently meet the criteria laid out by the governor to reopen either public or private schools to in-person classes. Specifically, the state has to have a positivity rate below 5% on coronavirus tests (the percentage of tests that come back positive) for three consecutive weeks. Last week was the first time since early June that the state achieved that.

"I have to tell you closing schools in the spring was one of the most difficult decisions I have made during the pandemic," said Brown, before announcing criteria likely to keep most schools closed. "It's clear that this school year will not look like any other."

And Multnomah County is further from meeting state benchmarks. In addition to a less than 5% positivity rate, the county would need to have fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents for a full in-person reopening.

In the last full week in which Multnomah County provided data, the county reported 453 new cases. To open in-person classes at all grade levels, there would need to be fewer than 81 cases a week. To open K-3 classes, the county would need to have fewer than 244 cases a week for three weeks.

In early June, the county would have met the criteria for K-3 classes. Since the pandemic began, the county has not seen fewer than 80 new cases for three weeks straight.

Only one county would meet the criteria for reopening if the statewide metric had been met, though 13 counties would meet the criteria for K-3 classes, which also apply to remote or rural schools, health officials said.

Brown encouraged Oregonians to engage in personal responsibility—wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands—but she did not commit to any particular policy initiative to bring down case counts.

"All options are still on the table," said Brown, mentioning the possibility of limiting travel from other states. "Oregon is basically surrounded by hot spot states.…Obviously, I have other tools available to me."

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