Schools get ready for full return; public health leader to meet with school leaders Thursday

Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe, who is pictured in her Ontario office in 2019, says she is very happy about being able to work on a plan with local school leaders to fully return students to classrooms. 


Gov. Kate Brown’s relaxing of the metrics for schools to reopen for in-person classes has school officials scrambling to modify their program to fit their students and staffs.

On Dec. 23, Brown ordered state agencies to put more schools on the path to in-person instruction, setting a mid-February deadline.

Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department, who will be part of local discussion, said schools may not be able to fully return to in-person. This is because social distancing will still be required, she said, and some classrooms may not have the space.

“However, we really welcome this,” she said of the governor’s decision.

Poe will be meeting with Malheur County school superintendents on Thursday for discussions on reopening, she said.

“I am not going to be an obstruction to reopening,” Poe said. “I am very happy about this.”

Local school boards and administrators will be making the decisions of how their schools will reopen.

Over in Nyssa, Superintendent Darren Johnson said not all the principals are back yet from the Christmas-New Years break, for reopening discussions, but there are plans in place, which will have to be approved by the Oregon Department of Education.

“We’re excited about getting students back,” he said.

For now plans call for mid-January reopening, Johnson said. However, he noted that he would like to see a wider opening when school takes up again on Monday, instead of continuing with the two hour-sessions, which have been in place since fall.

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