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School district administrators in Columbia County are now reacting to the latest state review and requirements to open schools this fall.

St. Helens School District Superintendent Scot Stockwell issued a letter to parents Tuesday night stating that the St. Helens Schools would open this fall with Distance Learning and no in-person classes

New School Year

St. Helens High School and the St. Helens School District will open the new school year with a comprehensive Distance Learning model and no in-person classes due to the pandemic.

In his letter, Stockwell said the district continues to monitor the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the community while planning for the 2020-21 school year.

"A lot has changed since we first closed our school buildings to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Stockwell said. "New research from around the world has helped us understand COVID-19 a lot more, and health experts in our local community and from across the state have now developed guidance for how to safely reopen school buildings."

Stockwell said it is important to note that countries that have managed to safely reopen school buildings have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing.

"Presently, Oregon has neither," Stockwell said. "The escalating infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not yet under control. County-specific metrics released by the governor, Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education further warn of the risk in reopening our school buildings too soon."

Stockwell said, given these factors, St. Helens School District will begin the 2020-21 school year in a “Comprehensive Distance Learning” model on September 8, 2020.

"I know for many that this is a disheartening message to receive," Stockwell said. "There’s nothing we want more than to be together again in our schools. Our district leaders will continue to work with staff, students, and families as we reshape our fall plans for this current, unfortunate reality. We will continue to reach out to you with updates and opportunities to provide input."

The St. Helens School District Board of Directors is set to discuss the school opening issue at its regularly scheduled public meeting Wednesday, July 29.

Rainier School District interim Superintendent Dr. Joseph Hattrick told the Chronicle specific decisions about opening the Rainier schools have not yet been made.

Hattrick said the Rainier School District is gathering feedback from all stakeholder groups while working with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), ODE, and OHA to determine the best course of action.

“It is our intent to present a comprehensive learning plan on August 10 which will continue to be revised in accordance with state and local guidance updates," Hattrick said. "I am investigating options that are mutually beneficial for students, parents, and staff while providing a safe and rigorous learning Environment for all.”

In an earlier published interview, Clatskanie School District Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said the district school board had agreed to open schools this fall for all students who wish to return to school.

Elementary students will attend Monday -Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday will be reserved for planning and working with students that choose our on-line option. Middle/High School students will attend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Chronicle also asked for an update from the Scappoose School District about the new school year plans. We are waiting for that district's response.

The school administrators responses follow Oregon Governor Kate Brown's news conference on Tuesday, July 28, in which she and state education and health officials announce what metrics school districts must meet in order to reopen for in-person instruction during the 2020-21 school year.

The factors include: Prevalence of the virus in the particular community, availability of testing, capacity of their local health care system and readiness of local public health to contain outbreaks that may occur.

Read more in the article attached and follow daily developments here online and in-depth reports in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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