PORTLAND, Ore. — For students in Portland's public schools, the school year came to a quiet end on Wednesday. Unlike any other school year, for PPS and schools across the state, this one ended with nearly three months of distance learning.
Oregon parents and students still don't know exactly what to expect for the coming school year, but the Oregon Department of Education has provided some guidance.
On Wednesday morning, OED shared its Ready Schools, Safe Learners framework to help Oregon schools plan for the 2020-21 school year. It's meant to evolve throughout the summer, and then throughout the school year, based on feedback from the school districts, public health officials and the community.
Oregon will begin providing in-person instruction in schools again in the fall, according to OED Director Colt Gill. But because we're still living with COVID-19 "and community-wide immunity is many months off," schools will be able to decide how much of their instruction will continue through distance learning.
"It is imperative that we work through the challenges and go back to school," Gill said. "Oregon’s children need access to an equitable, high quality education and all the nutrition, health, and social supports that come with it.
"Our state’s future depends on the education, health, and wellbeing of today’s children. We need to come together to overcome existing and exacerbated inequities brought on by COVID-19. We can do it carefully and cautiously and slowly, where needed. And, we can provide ready schools that are safe places for learners, staff, and their families."
For the next school year, districts will work with schools to develop an Operational Blueprint for Reentry, tailored to each school's needs.
Gill said the Operational Blueprint for Reentry must address eight essential elements:
- Public health protocols
- Facilities and school operations
- Response to the COVID-19 outbreak
- Family and community engagement
- Mental, social and emotional health
- Staffing and personnel
Each school's blueprint must be reviewed by its local school board and published on the district website. Schools will determine whether their plans include teaching all students on-site, teaching all students through distance learning or using a hybrid model.
Gov. Kate Brown announced that she will be convening a council of elected officials, education representatives, health officials and the public to advise her and the OED during the reopening process, to ensure that all community voices have a forum to provide their feedback.
“It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted students from Oregon’s historically underserved communities,” Brown said. “We must do better. Through the work of the Healthy Schools Reopening Council, we will ensure that Oregon’s students return to school safely, with equitable access to the tools they need to learn, grow, and achieve.”
So far, many school districts across Oregon and Washington have had a tough time adjusting to distance learning. While most kids have participated in some form of distance learning, there were some in the last week of school who hadn’t even logged on yet.
The framework released on Wednesday also includes OED's key principles for reducing students' potential exposure to the coronavirus:
- Physical distancing — minimizing close contact
- Hand hygiene — frequent washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer
- Cohorts — conducting all activities in small groups that remain together over time with minimal mixing of groups
- Protective equipment — use of face shields, face coverings, and barriers
- Environmental cleaning and disinfection — especially of high-touch surfaces
- Isolation of sick people and quarantine of exposed people
- And with the above considerations foremost, outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.
“I again ask Oregonians to come together and be smart," Brown added. "Reopening any part of our state comes with risk. This virus is still very dangerous, and it still poses a great threat. Please follow the safety measures we are putting in place.”
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