Families react to districts having final say in school reopening plans

Beginning Jan. 1, the power will lie in the hands of local school districts to decide when the return to the classroom will take place.

Posted: Dec 28, 2020 1:47 PM
Updated: Dec 29, 2020 7:12 AM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- Parents are speaking out after a major decision was made last week by Gov. Kate Brown, impacting the future of schools across Oregon.

RELATED: BROWN SAYS REOPENING SCHOOLS WILL BE A LOCAL DECISION, BEGINNING JAN. 1

Beginning Jan. 1, the power will lie in the hands of local school districts to decide when the return to the classroom will take place. Previously, a district was required to meet a series of metrics to determine how learning would be conducted. Brown said the new guidance is a push to get more students back to in-person learning.

Anna Lidbeck is a mother with children in the Harrisburg School District. She said she doesn’t have any concerns about the new guidance from the State after the way the district has handled keeping students and staff safe.

“I was very excited,” Lidbeck said. “The first thing I did was text a few of my friends who have been very anxiously waiting and asking if they'd heard the news. That is something I had hoped would have been her stance from the beginning. We’re pretty excited for the option that our district will allow our children back in the classroom here in the next few weeks.”

As she puts it, when doors open back up -- her children will be there.

“In 2021 we can learn a lot of valuable lessons from 2020,” Lidbeck said. “I think that moving forward from a health aspect, I hope that we never forget 2020 and remember that it is our responsibility to keep each other safe, to have personal responsibility, to stay home when sick and to keep our community safe by following our common sense guidelines. I'm very hopeful for 2021, and I'm very excited to see my children in the classroom again.”

Bryan Starr, superintendent for the Harrisburg district, weighed in Monday, saying district leaders will be meeting on Tuesday to decide what the new guidance means for them.

“We were planning to have K-3 in-person continuing as we have the past 15 weeks. We began bringing grades 4-6 back in limited instruction model on December 7. We plan to have them return on Monday, January 4.”

Starr said the district is working hard to bring students back as safely as possible.

Brandy Collier is a parent within the Eugene 4J school district. She believes that metrics should continue play a role in the decision.

“We're going to be keeping ours at home,” Collier said. “My son is medically fragile. My daughter has some issues, so I'm going to keep them in as much as possible. The numbers are still going up, and I just don't feel like it's safe yet.”

While new guidance for 4J hasn’t been released yet, she said she will continue to do what she feels is best for her family.

“I hope that everybody makes it through healthy,” Collier said. “The schooling can be caught up. We need to keep them healthy, keep them happy and keep them low-stress the best we can.”

The Oregon Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, called Brown's decision "abrupt."

“Nobody wants to get Oregon’s students safely back into our public schools more than educators," the union said in a statement. "But today’s decision by Governor Brown will only result in an increasingly disparate patchwork of return plans throughout the state’s public education system – creating uncertainty in a moment when clarity has never been more crucial."

The news is still fresh, so school districts in our area shared that a decision about next steps has yet to be made.

The Springfield Education Association said they believe Springfield Public Schools will make the decision that is best for the district.

“SEA will look forward to collaborative work with SPS leadership and consultation from Lane County Public Health and our community in the effort to safely return to in-person learning, when and how most appropriate," SEA said.

Springfield Public Schools is currently assessing any changes to their timelines.

The Bethel School District said they haven’t had a chance to discuss the recent news as an administrative team yet.

Meanwhile, Roseburg Public Schools will resume limited in-person learning opportunities as planned. Elementary school students will be able to participate on Tuesdays starting Jan. 12. Middle and high school students will be able to participate on Wednesdays starting Jan. 13.

RELATED: ROSEBURG SCHOOLS LOOK TO BRING STUDENTS BACK TO CLASSROOM

The new guidance was brought down in a letter from Gov. Brown to Director Pat Allen with the Oregon Health Authority and Director Colt Gill with the Oregon Department of Education. CLICK HERE to read the letter.

Stay with KEZI 9 News for the latest updates.

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