Legal representation of the Adrian School District Board of Directors is working with the Malheur County Health Department as the board is preparing to file a legal injunction against the state.
On Sept. 18, the board filed a lawsuit against Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, and Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, demanding that the district be able to allow students to return to the classroom.
The complaint, filed by Butler & Looney PC, a Vale-based practice, claims “if the children are not immediately returned to in-person instruction, immediate and irreparable harm will be caused to the school district’s resources,” and “if the children are not immediately returned to in-person instruction, immediate and irreparable harm will be incurred by the students in the form of reduced quality of instruction.”
During it’s Oct. 8 meeting, the board was told by Dustin Martinsen, of Butler & Looney PC, that the state told him that they should wait to file an injunction, as there was new ODE guidance coming out.
The guidance was released on Oct. 30, and does not allow any new schools in Malheur County to open to move out of distance learning (currently, Jordan Valley, Arock and Juntura schools are able to open due to their remote status).
“After being asked to back off, new metrics are coming, we did the honorable thing and backed off,” board Vice Chairman Quintin Shenk said. “And we got slapped in the face for it.”
Board member Jake Speelmon said he believes the reason why the state thought Adrian would like the new guidance was because of its remote status. In the new guidance, there is an exception for small remote schools (which was changed from districts). Adrian schools meet the criteria for size (enrollment lower than 75 in the building), but is not remote enough (25 miles by the nearest traveled road from any town or city with a population over 3,000 people) as Adrian is only 12 miles from Nyssa (3,200 people) and 24.5 miles from Caldwell (57,000 people).
“The attorney general thought we’d be happy with the new metrics,” Speelmon said.
“The attorney general doesn’t know where Adrian is,” Superintendent Kevin Purnell retorted.
Speelmon said Martinsen is currently discussing the inunction with Malheur County’s legal representation.
During the Oct. 8 meeting, the School Board and Purnell all signed a resolution, which is ready to send to the state. The resolution states that the members of the Adrian School Board would like the state to allow them to return to full in-person instruction as long as the number of COVID-19 cases in Adrian stay low and the school adheres to the reopening blueprint that the school submitted late in the summer.
• The latest guidance from ODE was not what Adrian School District wanted to hear, but it does allow for some major changes to how the Antelopes are giving limited in-person instruction to students.
Previously, with cohorts of 10 coming in a couple of times a week, Adrian School District was able to bring every student in for instruction in the classroom. Now with cohorts of 20 and students able to come in every day, the district has even more options when it comes to students coming into the school.
Purnell said one of the biggest changes is that the district has more flexibility when it comes to transporting the students, since they are able to put 20 students on a bus now. Purnell added that all of the school’s first graders fit in a single cohort and the fourth and fifth graders are able to be in the school at the same time.
• The School Board will be scheduling a special session before the December meeting to hire a new high school principal.
During the October meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Elementary School Principal Terri Vasquez, who had to leave due to health issues. Since then, Purnell has altered his role at the school. Previously, Purnell held the role of superintendent and high school principal, but has changed to being the superintendent and elementary school principal.
On Thursday, Purnell said his recommendation is the board hire Bill Wortman as an interim high school principal. The board was not able to vote on the topic on Thursday, as member Bobby Davis was out of town.