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Caravan Protest In Salem Over Delaying In-Person Classes

Terah Stuve

Several hundred cars drove around the capitol building in Salem Monday to protest in-person classes amid Oregon’s rising Covid-19 cases. People from all over the state joined Oregon Safe Return to Schools, part of a national movement called Refuse To Return. 


Refuse To Return advocates say in-person classes should only resume when local counties have had zero COVID-19 cases for 14 days.


According to Oregon Health Authority modeling, if the current rate of transmission continues, the state could see up to 1,600 cases per day by mid-August.


Alex Freeman, a bilingual educator from Portland, says by listening to the experts, he is using the critical thinking he teaches his students.


“We’re in a global health crisis,” said Freeman. “We have no good choices, but we do have a safest choice.”


Freeman also discussed how many schools are overcrowded. He and another teacher taught in the gym because of permit delays for a modular classroom. With this in mind, Freeman can’t imagine being able to go back safely.


“We don’t have enough people to clean our schools,” he said. “We don’t have enough nurses in our schools.”

Credit Terah Stuve
Oregon Safe Return to School held a protest in Salem, Ore. where many slogans on windows were like this one. Several protesters shared concern, not only for their students, but for colleagues who are considered high risk if they become ill with COVID-19.


Tom Beaman, retired social studies teacher for Reynolds School District, says in-person teaching is not worth the risk.


“It comes down to the issue of, you can make up for lost academics, but you can’t make up for lost life,” said Beaman.


Beaman has a former colleague who will be undergoing treatment for cancer this year. With 180 students, even meeting in small groups means at least 180 points of possible exposure.


Oregon Safe Return to Schools advocates maintaining distance learning until in-person teaching is deemed safe by experts. They are also asking for funding so all students can participate in distance learning.

Aubrey Bulkeley co-created FLUX podcast, a three-part series to accompany award-winning UO School of Journalism and Communication publication, FLUX Magazine. Bulkeley finished her Master's degree in Journalism at the University of Oregon in 2019.
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