Dear Governor Brown,
Oregon Department of Education and
Oregon Health Authority:
We, the Board of Education of the Central Linn School District (CLSD), admire and acknowledge the time invested and difficult decisions you have made to bring our state through this pandemic with the health and safety of Oregonians as your guiding beacon. Oregon’s relative ranking near the bottom of all states and territories in our nation for COVID metrics throughout the last year is due to our state setting intentional policies and public health protocols. As the vaccine becomes more available to the public, and our most vulnerable populations are protected, we urge you to consider the requirements outlined in Ready Schools Safe Learners (RSSL) that limit the ability to bring students fully on-site.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that schools be open; the social, mental and physical health benefits for students to be in school far outweigh the limited risk of COVID transmission that has been demonstrated in school reopenings thus far. We recognize that a number of safety measures will still need to be in place as we continue to weather the pandemic, including universal mask wearing, proper ventilation and limiting exposure through the implementation of cohorts. At CLSD, we have the ability and desire to bring all of our students on-site as outlined in your letter from March 5th to ODE and OHA. However, the continued requirement to have students and staff remain six feet apart, even with vaccines and face coverings, limits our ability to provide on-site education for our students. In our small district, size and limitations of physical space make a large difference in our ability to serve our students. In contrast, the World Health Organization has recommended spacing of one meter in schools; for CLSD, this shift would allow full on-site instruction for all students immediately. Public health experts and other states that have operated with less than 6 feet of distance indicate that we can be successful at limiting transmission in schools if the safety measures mentioned above are in place. Transportation also presents a challenge for most districts; with decreased physical distancing, bussing of all children would also become more realistic with current staffing and vehicular resources.
We know that you fully support bringing children back to the classroom, and are asking that the state review and update the RSSL guidance to include physical distancing protocols that will ensure children have the maximum amount of time in school buildings and activities, while still upholding public health safety.
The Central Linn School Board, District 552