Oregon Schools Prepare To Open Under COVID-19 Rules

Oregon Education

The Oregon Department of Education has detailed Ready Schools, Safe Learners, the initial guidance for how public and private schools will develop an operational blueprint for the 2020-21 school year. The blueprint will evolve throughout the year based on school district, public health, and community feedback, as well as incorporate new health and safety guidance to adapt to the COVID-19 situation as it changes.

Recognizing that COVID-19 will likely continue to pose a public health risk throughout the school year, and that the prevalence of COVID-19 varies community by community, the blueprint instructs districts to develop a back-to-school plan that utilizes a mix of on-site and distance learning options to protect the safety of students, staff, and families. Districts are also to develop communicable disease management plans and contingency plans in the event of COVID-19 outbreaks––including returns to fully distance learning and modified school year calendars as necessary.

Ready Schools, Safe Learners, developed under the direction of Governor Brown and in collaboration with Oregon Health Authority, provides a framework for schools for the 2020-21 school year that ensures the health and safety of all students and staff and the families they go home to each day.

“The unfortunate truth is that students from historically-underserved communities, particularly Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other students of color, have been disproportionately impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every student, regardless of the zip code they live in, deserves access to a high-quality education and the school-based services that will prepare them for lifelong success,” said Governor Kate Brown. “At the same time, we must ensure that Oregon’s students, our educators and support professionals, and our parents and caregivers remain safe. Returning to school in the fall will not look the same as it did before COVID-19. What the Oregon Department of Education has established is a process for school districts to listen to the community and develop health and safety plans that make sense for each district, each school, and each student. Together, we will proceed cautiously, testing each step as we move forward, and taking a step back if necessary to protect the health and safety of our students, families, and education community.”

“I’m thankful for the feedback from superintendents, teachers, families, community-based organizations, leaders from Oregon Health Authority and others who helped create this guidance and I’m excited to welcome kids back to their schools,” said ODE Director Colt Gill. “This model, developed under Governor Brown’s leadership, provides statewide guidance that each school district will use independently to plan for the education and safety of students during the 2020-21 school year. We understand and honor the importance of local voice, leadership and control. These individual plans will reflect the distinct strengths and needs of each district and community.”

What Schools Must Do

For the 2020-21 school year, each school will work under the direction of the district to develop an Operational Blueprint for Reentry that is tailored to the local context and informed by local needs.

Each Operational Blueprint for Reentry must address eight essential elements including Public Health Protocols, Equity, Instruction, and Family and Community Engagement.

Prior to the beginning of the school year, the Operational Blueprint for Reentry must be reviewed by the local school board and made available to the community on the district website. The blueprints will require that every school, under direction of the district, determine whether they teach all students on-site, teach all students through distance learning or utilize a hybrid model.

“We are pleased to receive reopening guidance from ODE and OHA, which allows us the flexibility to educate and care for the needs of our own unique students,” said Reynolds School District Superintendent Dr. Danna Diaz. “Developing our plan requires critical conversations centered on the best outcomes of health and safety for our students and staff. The Reynolds School District Operational Blueprint for Reentry will become our guiding principles and action steps to facilitate the reopening of our schools while communicating what our families can expect for their students in the coming year.”

“Our investments in teacher leadership in the Colton School District have been instrumental in our ability to effectively pivot as needed to this virus,” said Colton School District Superintendent Dr. Koreen N. Barreras-Brown. “Teacher leaders are at the forefront of our planning for a student-centered approach to the reopening of equitable in-person learning. Our number one priority is the health and safety of our students, staff and families. We lead from the heart as we collaborate with the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon Health Authority, and Colton students and families on the plan for fall 2020. We are thankful for the ongoing support and guidance from ODE and OHA.”

“I appreciate the extensive planning given to the return to school for our children and school staff,” said Oregon Parent Teacher Association President Kristi Dille. “We know the new school year will look different but using the best information from educators, health care leaders and science brings hope for a safe and healthy return to school. The ODE/OHA guidance recognizes local health and education needs and guide a healthy and positive way for us to return to the classroom.”

This Moment In History

This guidance is being released during a somber moment in a history we can have difficulty reconciling, including healing from the ongoing suffering caused by white supremacy.

“There is no way to ignore the reality of what young people and families are experiencing across Oregon and the world. And while it might be seen as a technical or administrative task, the guidance we are releasing is fundamentally about how leaders and communities in Oregon will respond to create thriving conditions for each and every student amidst the challenges we face,” Gill said. “Young people are already guiding us into the future.”

Source: Oregon Department of Education

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