On Wednesday, April 8, Gov. Kate Brown announced that all K-12 schools in Oregon would remain closed for the rest of the school year.
This follows her other Executive Orders that closed schools down to the end of April with the chance of them reopening for the final month. Now with schools closed for the remainder of the year the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has been issuing guidance to schools districts, and answering their questions about how to provide distance learning for all students. Even before this last order, ODE was working with school districts on having a “Distance Learning for All” plan in place by Monday, April 13.
“I know how hard this is for everyone, but it is necessary to save lives and for the health and safety of everyone,” Brown said. “This will help provide certainty to schools and parents.”
Brown noted that her decision was a careful reflection of not only the health and safety of the children, and the community, but also on how to complete the school year with important milestones such as prom and graduation. She believes that with the school closure, and distance learning across the state that it will help to stop the spread of the virus.
In regards to seniors at high schools across the state ODE is working with school districts on honoring work completed up through mid-March, when the first school closures were announced. Brown and ODE Head Colt Gill did not want to punish seniors for a full term of work missed. Gill believes that it is equitable to honor work for credits that had already been completed and those on track to graduate will graduate at the end of the school year.
“This will help to maintain our graduation requirements and not to punish students for not being able to complete work in class,” said Gill. “We believe in them and that they can succeed.”
Brown and Gill both noted that those seniors not on track to graduate that school districts should focus more resources on those seniors not on track to graduate. Gill noted that ODE is providing guidance, but that the local districts know their students and situation best; and they should work on those students that were struggling on making up the work on distance learning so they can graduate.
According to Brown, no students will be denied admission to any public university in Oregon based on the closure if they were on the path to graduate from high school.
At this time the Governor and ODE have not made an announcement about graduation ceremonies, and how those will work. ODE is looking at alternatives, and working with districts at the local level to determine local events and how it will work with social distancing rules if they are still in place.
Gill had no firm answer on how the credits needed for ninth through eleventh graders would be affected on their road to graduation. He said the department is still working on it, though students would not be held back if they were on track to move forward in March.
Currently school districts across Lake County are figuring out distance learning for all plans, and graduation ceremonies as well.