With school employees to get vaccines, district announces return to classroom


LINCOLN COUNTY — The Lincoln County School District plans bring all grades into school buildings on a hybrid model by Feb. 8, with kindergarten through sixth grade returning Feb. 1 and grades seven through 12 the following week.

Last month, Gov. Kate Brown announced a policy change making COVID-19 metrics that mandated when in-person learning could be conducted would become advisory only on Jan. 4, leaving the decision up to local districts.

In an update Thursday afternoon, LCSD Superintendent Karen Gray said she and other school executives around the state discussed the new policy with Brown on Monday and made three requests: “Working with our labor unions to ensure that bringing students back to school is a top priority; establishing a timeline for educators to receive the COVID vaccine; and working with Oregon Health Authority to move aside roadblocks to re-opening.”

Lincoln County Public Health confirmed Thursday that workers in educational facilities, including teachers, support staff and daycare employees, would be included with phase 1a of vaccinations. Gray said she would push hard to get employees vaccinated by Feb. 1, but the district plans to bring students back regardless.

School employees are in group four of four, in order of priority for vaccination, within phase 1a. Florence Pourtal, health department deputy director, said Monday she hoped all first doses for the first group in phase 1a to be complete by the end of January, and at the current rate, they’d do well to have all of the phase vaccinated within a few months. 

But the health department said it was notified by the Oregon Health Authority Tuesday that it no longer had to complete group one before vaccinating other groups, so if no first-group candidates are available to fill slots when a vial is thawed, starting the clock on administration of the multiple doses within, it plans to bump people up as needed to make the best use of the vaccine.

Under the district’s hybrid model, students are split into two “blocks” that each attend in person two days a week, with online learning the remaining three days. Gray said the only caveat to the plan for hybrid in February might be a severe worsening of the pandemic in Lincoln County. If the data released by the state Jan. 19 reveals such a trend, Gray said, “We will have to address that.”

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