Oregon schools can decide to reopen in 2021, gov. says

Umatilla School District to open to some students January 19, 2021

UMATILLA, Ore. — Minutes after Governor Kate Brown announced schools could decide for themselves in the new year whether to reopen to students, at least one local school district jumped at the opportunity.

The governor sent a letter Wednesday to state school and health agencies, easing COVID-19 restrictions at schools. Her goal is to help put more children back into classrooms by February.

One of the governor’s announcements was that state school metrics will be “advisory rather than mandatory” starting January 1. That’s when schools can decide to reopen to students — if they want to do so. It’s a system already in place in Washington state.

Minutes later, Umatilla School District Superintendent Heidi Sipe announced on the district’s “live feed” that the district will begin limited in-person instruction January 19 for pre-registered students:

In hopeful anticipation of the Governor’s guidance for schools becoming advisory instead of mandatory and liability insurance updates passing during the short legislative session, the District worked with Umatilla County Health last week on opening plans. Now that the legislature has passed liability protections for schools and the Governor has revised her guidance to advisory, we are approved to begin Limited In Person Instruction January 19th for those who already registered. Soon after, we expect to expand LIPI to additional students and/or transition into our Hybrid learning plan. All plans will follow the Ready Schools, Safe Learners requirements. We are excited to welcome students back to school soon! Parents who registered for LIPI will receive updated guidance the week of January 4th with more specific information.

Umatilla School District includes Umatilla High School, Clara Brownell Middle School and McNary Heights Elementary School.

KAPP-KVEW has reached out to Hermiston, Milton-Freewater and Pendleton school officials for their plans as well.

The governor also wants to add rapid COVID-19 testing at schools and to prioritize teachers and staff for vaccines. You can read her full letter here.