State releases new metrics for schools to return to in-person education
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) today released an update to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, including updated metrics for returning to in-person instruction. The metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, aligns to CDC and California recommendations, and helps Oregon meet its priority to return students to in-person instruction.
Since Oregon’s metrics were originally issued in August, more data has become available from school districts across the country. ODE worked with Oregon Health Authority to establish when students can return to the classroom while still mitigating the risk of COVID-19 spread.
A key lesson from the review of national school data is that Oregon school districts can help protect student and staff health and well-being during in-person instruction when community spread is sufficiently low and when school districts strictly adhere to the health and safety protocols now in place in Oregon.
These changes were made as part of a planned review of the metrics. Three of the major changes made to the metrics are:
- Removing the statewide 5% threshold for percentage of tests coming back positive. This simpler approach will better reflect local conditions.
- Changing the review period for examining metrics data to two-week period rather than three consecutive one-week periods. This important change aligns with the CDC, California and other states, and will avoid the situations we’ve seen where a one-time cluster in a smaller county resets the clock for them for an additional three weeks.
- Expanding the exception for K-3 to all elementary-aged students up to grade six. At the time of the original metric, limited scientific evidence suggested that children of K–3 ages might be lower risk for transmitting COVID-19, but newer evidence suggests this may not be the case; however, younger children still appear to have less severe illness than older children and adults.