PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” — that’s the guidance released by the Oregon Department of Education on Wednesday for the upcoming school year.
The guidance provides concrete requirements and recommendations so schools — closed since early April because of the pandemic — can determine what’s best for their schools. The guiding principals of the plan include 4 main goals: ensure safety and wellness, cultivate connection and relationship, center equity and innovation.
The ODE released the guidelines but schools across the state have to come up with a blueprint for reentry. There are certain requirements to determine how students can be taught: on-site, through comprehensive distance learning or both.
The combination option means a group will be taught in person and then there will be a switch.
For the schools that can provide on-site learning in the fall, things will be different: physical distancing measures will be put into place, school staff within 6 feet of students will be required to wear face coverings but it won’t be required for students.
Each school’s plan must keep in mind essential elements: public health protocols, equity, instruction, and family and community engagement.
“Our message to parents and families is that we see them as essential partners and this work we need to together develop a clear understanding of how to keeping our communities safe as we think about reopening out schools,” said Colt Gill, the director of the Oregon Department of Education. “This guidance describes what we know today.”
Dr. Tom Jeanne with the Oregon Health Authority said face coverings are an important part of preventing infection, “but we think they are not as important as physical distancing and hand hygene. With some age groups there are some concerns about whether it’s going to make or decrease their risk enough or pose problems for certain students.”
Full Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance for 2020-21 School Year
The best tools, he said, are physical distancing and hygiene.
For those schools who are able to teach on-site, students will be broken up into diverse cohorts to help with contact tracing. Schools must also have a plan if there is a COVID-19 outbreak.
Public, private and charter schools must complete their blueprints by August 15 and it will be posted on the school’s website for parents to be informed.
Gov. Kate Brown announced she’s bringing together a council of school employees and representative from communities of color to advise her and the Department of Education as they move forward in the reopening process.
“At the same time we want to make sure our students, all of our students regardless of where they live in the state, have the opportunity to achieve their full potential and they have access to a quality education,” Brown told KOIN 6 News.
Along with public health guidance, the plan was developed with the help of comments from 8,000 parents over the last few months. The plan will continue to be updated as more information about the coronavirus comes in.
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