The Corvallis School District is preparing for a May return to in-person learning with full-capacity classrooms.
Until now, CSD has been cautious, only recently returning to in-person learning with greatly reduced student contact hours and class sizes. Corvallis COVID-19 rates are currently low, but upward trends across Oregon and the country should give decision-makers pause. Increased caseloads are due to a variety of factors, but increased prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants is the most relevant and concerning.
For example, the UK B.1.1.7 variant is more transmissible and virulent among younger age groups (Volz et al. 2021. Nature, Challen et al. 2021. BMJ), while vaccines may be less effective against the South African B.1.351 and Brazilian P.1 variants (Planas et al. 2021. Nature Medicine, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 2021).
On April 14, Oregon State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger reported these “variants of concern” are in Oregon and have increased by notable levels. With cases rising and variants our children may be more susceptible to, CSD wants to increase class sizes and contact hours, dramatically increasing exposure to kids, teachers, school staff and parents.
This decision was rushed with little parent and teacher consultation. CSD would be better served by listening to the science, communicating with teachers and families, and pausing to find educational solutions for all students to succeed without risking the health, safety and trust of our community.