Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris was appointed to Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Healthy Schools Reopening Council, which will provide feedback to the Governor and Department of Education on their early guidance on reopening schools for the fall.
The state is considering three approaches for education in the fall, including in-person classes, a mixture of in-person and at-home learning and all distanced learning.
“I want to reiterate: School districts, via their leadership of Administration and elected School Board members, will make the determination, not the State, and certainly not the council or the county,” stated Morris.
The council of 40 members from across the state met for the first time on Tuesday, and Morris said she recommended in-person learning.
“We had our first meeting yesterday, and I shared because education is the great equalizer, I believe it’s important to get kiddos back to safe and clean schools, in person (with options and flexibility for parents who aren’t comfortable with that),” Morris said in the Wednesday statement.
She said the council heard from people with concerns about the lack of childcare due to COVID and parents going back to work, along with a student sharing the embarrassment of lacking the technology to do class work at home.
In a news release from Gov. Brown’s office, she emphasized that the council aims to ensure diverse feedback from minority communities when deciding how to reopen schools equitably.
“It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted students from Oregon’s historically-underserved communities,” said Brown. “We must do better. Through the work of the Healthy Schools Reopening Council, we will ensure that Oregon’s students return to school safely, with equitable access to the tools they need to learn, grow, and achieve.”
Morris encouraged people to contact school board members and administrators who will be the ones deciding what school will look like in the fall.
“Keep in mind, this is new for all of us. I believe schools, parents, kiddos, the council, the Department of Education and the State all want to strike the right balance of education and safety. It is my belief schools' first job is to educate, and we cannot let a generation lose that opportunity,” stated Morris. “Also keep in mind these are extremely challenging times for schools and we must be sensitive to that. They want to keep your kids safe, while providing an opportunity for learning.”
The council will meet leading up to and during the school year to continue to monitor COVID-19 and discuss its impacts on education in Oregon. The membership includes public health officials, elected leaders, students, parents and many more.