Oregon, Washington school districts consider options to bring students back to classrooms

Despite grim COVID-19 numbers, districts across southwest Washington and Oregon are working to figure out how and when students can get back to the classroom.

Even as case numbers soar, districts say they are looking also at a rising number of students failing classes.

Nationally, the numbers are in the 40-50% range of students failing — and that number is being seen in our area, as well.

“Is more harm being done than good?” That’s the question many districts are struggling with as more students are failing classes this year when compared to last year. That’s the reality in both Oregon and Washington schools.

It’s that reality that has people wondering why students can’t return to the classrooms, or at least in a limited capacity.

“In general, we haven’t seen a lot of transmission in schools that have been open,” said Dr. Steven Krager with Clark County Public Health. “It’s been some, but it’s been pretty minimal.”

Public health says they can — but it has to be limited and regulated. They say, though, what would help a lot is if teachers were vaccinated.  So, is that an option?

It would help the situation they are on the list. There’s phases in kind of prioritization of the vaccines. So, right now we’re in phase one…Teachers are in phase two.

Dr. Steven Krager said with teachers in the second phase, it could be a few months before educators as a group get the vaccine.

This means, if districts make the decision to bring back some students, they have to continue taking precautions.

Last week, Vancouver Public Schools made the decision to bring back small groups who are struggling the most, which will meet in January.

Now, other districts, like Portland Public Schools, are discussing their options. Their board came together on Monday night to discuss coming back to school. While they have not made a decision yet, they say they are having the conversation.

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