Updated Ready Schools, Safe Learners leaves Baker 5J learning models unchanged

BAKER CITY – (Release by the Baker School District) The Oregon Department of Education released updated Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance to align with Governor Brown’s recent Executive Order 21-06.

The updated guidance – including simplified metrics, revised cohort requirements, and adjusted entry screening recommendations – is meant to assist more schools throughout the state in providing additional in-person instruction by April 19, 2021.

Baker 5J schools are already operating to the greatest extent allowable under this Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance. Currently, all K-Grade 6 students are offered in-person instruction, and Grade 7-12 students are offered in-person instruction 2 of 4 school days per week. Comprehensive Distant Learning and learning via Baker 5J virtual schools are also options for Baker 5J families.

Superintendent Witty has been working closely with key partners across the State, including the Governor’s office, to increase in-person learning for Grade 7-12 students; but in order to accommodate all secondary grade students in full-time, in-person learning, there needed to be both an increase in allowable cohort size and a decrease in allowable physical distancing as part of updated guidance. The adjustment made to allowable cohort size in the updated Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance is helpful; but until the guideline for physical distancing is moved from 6 feet to 3 feet, Baker School District will not be able to provide more in-person instruction at the secondary level. The 3 foot reduction in distancing requirements is safe according to the World Health Organization when individuals also wear masks and has been adopted in other states, such as Massachusetts and Colorado; but the adoption of this reduced distancing requirement is still under consideration by the CDC, OHA, and ODE.

The removal of the previous cohort cap in the updated Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidelines is a victory; and Superintendent Witty remains committed to championing a reduction in the distancing requirements for schools in rural counties such as Baker 5J.

“As community risk lowers via greater numbers of vaccinations, we need to rebalance and focus on the social, emotional, and academic needs of our students,” says Witty. “We need to give our secondary students the opportunity to be back in school full-time. I remain hopeful that we will see a reduction in the physical distancing requirement from 6 feet to 3 feet in the upcoming weeks, which would allow our secondary students to attend in-person school every day.”

About the Baker School District

Nationally recognized Baker School District 5J (BSD) is a major employer in Baker City, OR, serving 1,700 students locally with an additional 3,000 online students across the state of Oregon. Through enterprising, collaborative endeavors, BSD is creating an innovative educational foundation for future Oregonians. BSD believes strong school collaboration with local partners enables us to create vibrant communities that support lifelong learners.