For the first time since March, Baker School District has all students on campus for in-person learning. Students in Grades PreK – 6 returned full time on October 14. Students in grades 7-12 came back to campus for one day a week on November 9, keeping cohort sizes within state guidelines.
School principals agree: things are going well. Students have adjusted quickly to the new screening and hygiene protocols and doing much better in their classes as a result of being able to meet with their peers and teachers.
Last week Governor Kate Brown issued a 2 week “freeze” for all counties in the state. On Monday Executive Order 20-65 provided legal backbone to the order. These orders don’t impact our local schools directly, but the upcoming holiday season has many school officials worried.
Baker School District is able to operate in-person as a result of meeting guidance that was in place earlier this Fall, outlined in Ready Schools, Safe Learners. In-person schools that follow state health protocol are proving to be safe environments for students and staff.
“It is better for our children to be in school,” said Mark Witty, Baker 5J Superintendent.
Which is why some school officials are concerned.
Recent numbers of COVID-19 put Baker County in a “pause”. Additionally, new guidance was issued by the Oregon Department of Education that could put all Baker students back into distance learning if Baker County COVID-19 cases continue at their current rate.
“Keeping kids in school is imperative for families, kids and for our community,” said Witty. “If Baker County continues to chalk up more than 60 cases over a 14-day period, we will have to move back to distance learning on January 4, 2021. We need all of our citizens to help stem the spread. Each one of us, working together, can make that happen.”
According to contact tracing data produced by the Baker County Health Department, the current viral spread is primarily due to social gatherings outside of the school environment.
Nancy Staten, Director of Baker County Health Department urged residents to follow distancing recommendations and wear face masks.
“You’re fine, until you’re not,” she said in a November 17 Baker City Herald article. “It is concerning, with the holidays coming up. We want people to be really smart.”
“This is unchartered territory for all of us,” said Witty. “We continue to receive information on the changes coming about from the state and local authorities. The school district is bound by these regulations for the greater good, but we can’t do it alone. We need everyone’s help.”
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.