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School Districts React to Classroom Distancing Guidance

Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

The CDC and the Oregon Health Authority recently announced classrooms can reduce physical distancing from six feet to three. Decisions now fall to each district whether and how to change in-person learning.


Bend-La Pine Superintendent Lora Nordquist said they’re going “all-in.” Kindergarten to 5th grade students will be back to buildings full time April 5th, and middle and high schoolers April 12th. 

“We’re very excited about that," she said, "and feel like that will be a great way to finish the school year, that last 10 weeks of school, giving them a good solid foundation of in-classroom experience as we head into the summer.”


Other regional schools aren’t ready to make changes yet. In letters to their communities, Siuslaw School District in Florence said they’ll continue hybrid learning until the fourth quarter, April 19th, and Oakridge said they need time to plan and implement the new guidance. Creswell Superintendent Michael Johnson said they’ll wait for clarity from the State of Oregon in the coming days, and will assess each building’s operations after that. 

Officials from Eugene area schools had not replied to requests for comments as of air time. 


Sabrina Parsons shared this perspective from the Eugene Education Association: 


"Given all of the effort that has gone into planning for instruction and safety protocols, the best course for now would be to continue the planned rollout of a hybrid model, assess how it’s going and what needs to be tweaked, and make those adjustments as we go move through spring term. Students and families are depending on schools to deliver instruction AND keep kids safe. Hastily switching gears right now is not the best way to do that."


Credit Unsplash

The Bend-La Pine School District is excited to bring classrooms back to near capacity, with three feet between desks instead of six. Superintendent Lora Nordquist said they’re grateful for the new guidance from the CDC and the State of Oregon.


She and other Central Oregon school leaders had sent a letter to Governor Kate Brown in early March, advocating for reduced distancing. "We are not anti-science, we are very pro science," Nordquist told KLCC, "but we feel like the World Health Organization has had a one-meter recommended distance since the beginning, and there’s been more and more research that with other mitigation practices in place, that three feet was appropriate for most classroom environments.”


The timing of the change, right as spring break began, made for extra work days, but they’d been anticipating it. Nordquist said Bend-La Pine kindergarten through fifth graders will be back in school full time starting April 5th, and middle and high schoolers will return full time April 12th. 


Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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