The Year 2020 has culminated into an historic year – from a global pandemic, to calls for social justice and equity in our local cities, to destruction by wildfires on the outskirts of town. 

The pandemic effectively shut down much of the southern Willamette Valley in March, and local businesses, educators, healthcare workers and community members have faced unprecedented challenges ever since.

 Equity and social justice rattled the area in 2020. Several protests for social justice were held this year in the summer and fall in Springfield, Creswell and Cottage Grove. 

A Black Lives Matter protest in Creswell attracted counter-protesters from neighboring areas, including a caravan of flag-waving counter-protesters. Pushback from the community around an equity resolution at Creswell City Hall eventually led to the resignation of former mayor Richard Zettervall and, a few weeks later, councilor Martha McReynolds Jr. 

Springfield Police Department is undergoing a review after a protest in Thurston in July raised concerns of police behavior. Rick Braziel, a veteran law enforcement professional, is tasked with reviewing the case. The latest leg of his investigation included a community forum in December. 

People rallied for and against South Lane County Fire & Rescue chief John Wooten after he was under investigation for posting to his personal Facebook with statements and memes calling the coronavirus a hoax, indicating protesters should be shot, and other offensive material.

After being placed on non-disciplinary paid leave by the board during the investigation and hundreds of emails from the community, the board voted 3-2 to reinstate the chief on June 18, which led to the immediate resignation of then-vice president Jennifer Radcliffe.

Education was turned upside down this year. On March 13, Gov. Kate Brown closed public schools through March 31, describing it as an “early spring break.” By the end of the month, supplementary education was rolled out as the Department of Education shifted to plans for distance learning, which launched in April. 

It wasn’t long before schools had to figure out what graduation ceremonies looked like in a pandemic, and schools like Pleasant Hill were crafty enough to come up with a drive-in style graduation ceremony. 

By July, Springfield superintendent Todd Hamilton presented the reopening guidelines and ODE introduced new face-covering requirements for students and staff in K-12, but when August rolled around the virus case numbers continued to rise. Creswell, Springfield and Pleasant Hill school districts opted to stick with an improved version of comprehensive distance learning, while South Lane School District opted to use a hybrid model.