In the two weeks since the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) released its “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance on returning to school for the 2020-21 school year, our district has been working on developing plans to equitably serve all students while following the directives designed to keep students, staff, and families safe in our buildings.
The district will be required to submit an operational blueprint that requires plans in eight different areas:
Public Health Protocols - including a communicable disease management plan for COVID-19, plans for physical distancing in schools, cohort models (groups of students consistently together), and screening and isolation procedures
Facilities and School Operations - addresses enrollment, attendance, technology, meals, transportation, and cleaning/disinfecting
Response to Outbreak - covers prevention and planning, response, and recovery and reentry
Equity - ensures all students are served equitably and provides guidance on how to make equitable decisions
Instruction - outlines instructional time, models, schedules, considerations, and precautions instruction that is at high risk for disease spread
Family and Community Engagement - details communication protocols for planning and notification around exposure and infection
Mental, Social, and Emotional Health - provides planning tools and resources and strategies to keep students mentally, socially, and emotionally well
Staffing and Personnel - directs how districts must support and train staff
The requirements in the ODE guidance make it clear that school will not be “business-as-usual” when we open our doors later this summer. According to the guidelines, the district is required to provide a minimum of 35 square feet per person while providing at least six feet of physical space between each person. That means a classroom that once held 25 students is now limited to 14 students, due to the physical distancing spacing that is required.
With these mandates, we will be unable to bring all students back into our buildings at the same time. The district is reviewing how best to use all of its facilities, including Ackerman Center, to serve as many students as possible, in-person at the same time. The plan must also take into consideration the staffing constraints to teach students in all these physical spaces.
In order for districts to meet ODE and Oregon Health Authority guidance, we are examining cohort models that limit the number of students in a school due to social distancing requirements. All districts in our region are exploring a hybrid model of learning that will include some in-person instruction and some independent study on the days a cohort cannot be in school, due to distancing restrictions.
District and school administrators are reviewing staff, student, and parent survey feedback as they develop plans. As we move forward, we will continue to combine community feedback, staff input, and the state’s guidance into our planning. Updates to the ODE guidance are expected next week. We will continue to provide you updates as we move closer to determining models that meet the requirements of the ODE guidelines.
We understand this has been a challenging time and future uncertainty makes things even more difficult. We must balance educational needs, health and safety, and state requirements into our planning for the 2020-21 school year. We will provide a first draft of our plan to you in the coming weeks.
I hope that you and your family will have some time to relax over the holiday next week.