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School reopening will depend on us all

Medford School District students and families will see a variety of changes this fall as schools prepare to partially reopen for in-person learning. Many details remain to be hammered out — Superintendent Bret Champion says “we’re not even calling it a plan yet” — and much could change depending on what happens with coronavirus cases locally between now and then. But overall, it appears to be a solid framework that will get elementary students back in classrooms if all goes well — and that means all of us need to keep following the rules.

Here are the key points:

The school year will start Sept. 8, a week later than usual, to let staff prepare for the changes.

Central Medford High School will move to leased space at the former Grace Christian campus behind First Baptist Church on Crater Lake Avenue. Fifth- and sixth-graders will attend classes together at the former Central High at 850 S. Oakdale Ave., and district administration will move to rented space downtown.

The rest of the primary grades will attend their regular schools, with each class divided into two rooms to provide the recommended space per student.

Middle- and high-school students who are likely to lose the most ground from missing in-person instruction will get priority for returning to the classroom, while others continue with distance learning.

The framework for all of this was delivered to parents Monday night. It’s a lot to absorb, and making it succeed will depend on parents’ support and participation.

Parents will be asked to take their child’s temperature every morning. Students who ride a bus will be required to wear masks. The district will provide masks for grades five through 12.

Just as Jackson County has reported fewer cases of COVID-19 infections than other parts of the state, it appears Medford is more ambitious about reopening schools than larger cities. Portland Public Schools and districts in other major cities announced they would not be restarting in-person instruction this fall.

Again, even Medford’s carefully drafted system could crumble between now and September if we see a large increase in COVID cases. That’s up to the adults. If you want to see students back in classrooms this fall, wear your mask in public and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

Now, more than ever, it takes a village — or a city — to raise children safely.