Oregon schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus outbreak, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday, making official a grim decision that had been widely anticipated by families and teachers around the state for weeks.
The primary consideration was safety of both students and educators, Brown said.
High school seniors who were passing all their classes will all be allowed to graduate, Brown said, freeing up teachers to focus extra attention on struggling students who were in danger of not passing one or more classes. Those efforts can continue through August, and those students will still be considered members of the graduating class of 2020, said Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education.
Students who have already been admitted to the state’s public universities who are on track to graduate will maintain their spots in next year’s freshman class, Brown said, and current freshmen, sophomores and juniors will continue to earn credits that count toward their graduation.
For all students, Gill acknowledged that the distance learning program in place through the end of the academic year will look different in different school districts, and even within individual schools. For example, in some rural Eastern Oregon districts, school bus drivers are delivering learning packets door to door, while other teachers are recording themselves giving lessons and making them available via YouTube.
“As we move through this, we have to understand, we have been trying to make decisions as we understand conditions on the ground. We all have to have a bit of grace and patience with each other,” Gill said. “We are going to see improvement week after week as educators get used to this new way of doing business.”
Whether school will be extended into the summer will be a district by district decision, Gill said. He added that there are some districts considering early starts for next year as well, and said he was "hopeful" that schools would be able to reopen in September of 2020 as scheduled.
School districts have not been instructed to lay off any personnel yet, Brown said, but have been told to freeze all hiring for the 2020-2021 academic year.