PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s official: Students in Portland Public Schools will begin hybrid, in-person instruction April 1 after both the teachers union and the PPS Board of Education ratified the deal.
By a 6-1 vote Thursday night, the PPS Board of Ed approved the plan for the youngest students — pre-school through 1st grade — to begin on April 1. Students in 2nd through 5th grade would begin in-person instruction on April 5, while students in 6th through 12th grades will start the week of April 19.
Before the vote, PPS Chief of Human Resources Sharon Reese said, “The plan you are voting on this evening is not perfect but it is a meaningful and critical step forward for the district.”
And Elizabeth Thiel, the president of the Portland Association of Teachers, said, “It has been an enormous job crafting the agreement before you today.”
The PPS Board of Education’s vote was the final step in students and teachers returning to class.
“We’re driving an aircraft carrier, not a tugboat,” said PPS Board Vice Chair Scott Bailey. “We can’t turn the ship on a dime. This plan is aligned to a point in time so we can focus on opening schools as quickly as possible and not spend more weeks and months of planning to open schools.”
Board member Amy Kohnstamm was the sole “No” vote. She cited the rule that requires at least 6 feet of space between desks and said the CDC is expected to change that recommendation as early as this week.
“It makes an enormous difference for our kids because if we simply create the flexibility to adjust to a change in those physical distancing requirements we can double the amount in-person instruction time,” Kohnstamm said.
In a statement, PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said this result of months of tireless planning and discussions.
“We have a plan for safely returning students to schools,” Guerrero said. “A large majority of our families have indicated that they are ready for in-person learning. We know our students benefit when they are able to be face-to-face with their teachers and with each other.”
He said there are some “finer details” that need to be finalized in the next few days.
Reese said they’ve been planning for health and safety needs and issues for nearly a year.
“The safety items in the agreement include HEPA air purifiers for every room or space where students are designated to meet with educators, all schools will have a school nurse or school health assistant on campus, each building will have a safety committee which will include PAT members (and) will have rapid testing for all symptomatic students and staff.”
Gov. Kate Brown recently ordered all Oregon public schools to offer universal access to hybrid or full in-person instruction by the weeks of March 29 for grades K-5, and April 19 for grades 6-12.
PPS officials said a recent survey of families with students in K-5 showed 70% were ready for a return to some form of in-person instruction.