PORTLAND, Ore (KOIN) — Back to school this year is really back to school. After a pandemic year of online and hybrid learning, schools in both Oregon and Washington will be in-person full-time this academic year.
Now, Oregon schools have further guidance on what that will look like.
The Oregon Department of Education released school guidance updates on Thursday. With the first iteration of Oregon’s Resiliency Framework released nearly one month ago, all public schools were told they can operate full-time, in-person, every school day, this school year — with districts offering online programs as they see fit.
The ODE has now released the following updates:
- Acknowledgement that K-12 schools will vary when it comes to the number of students and staff fully vaccinated. Elementary schools primarily serve children under 12 years of age who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. Some schools may have a low percentage of students and staff fully vaccinated despite vaccine eligibility. These variations necessitate that K-12 administrators make decisions about the use of COVID-19 prevention strategies in their schools to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.
- Alignment to CDC guidance which states that people who are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine or get tested after exposure to someone with COVID-19. This protects the student’s access to in-person learning, sports and extracurricular activities. People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or 2 weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
- The CDC’s order for mandatory use of face coverings for passengers and drivers on public transit applies to school buses. This order remains in effect until lifted by the federal government and cannot be waived by state or local authorities.
- Clarification that maintaining physical distancing should not prevent return to full-time, in-person instruction for all students. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet between students, school leaders are reminded of the importance of layering multiple other prevention strategies, such as face coverings, indoors.
- In grades kindergarten and up, OHA and ODE still strongly advise face coverings for all staff and students who are unvaccinated while indoors. Certain accommodations for medical needs or disability may be necessary.
- Information about how school districts submit an Operational Plan/Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan via Smartsheet. These plans must be submitted to ODE by Monday, August 23, 2021 to fulfill the requirements of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) State plan and the State Board of Education. The Smartsheet link, tools and directions will be shared later today. Information for public charter schools will be shared next week.
- Details about COVID-19 Testing in Schools, a program sponsored by OHA. OHA continues to offer a diagnostic testing program for schools, and has added a screening program for schools that may be interested.
- A communications toolkit with resources to help school and district leaders communicate to students, staff and families.
As Oregon enters the next chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Resiliency Framework shifts public school districts to a more traditional, local decision-making model, so that communities can make the health and safety decisions that serve students best.
Most of the health and safety protocols for Oregon schools, including masks and physical distancing will become advisory this fall. This means school districts, public charter schools and private schools will have the option to implement their own COVID rules.
But key measures that remain required include: Maintaining a communicable disease plan, maintaining an isolation space in schools and submitting a plan for operation.
This school year all public and private Washington schools must plan to provide full-time in-person education for all interested students with these mandatory mitigation measures:
Wearing masks indoors, ventilation, cleaning and disinfecting, details of how schools will respond to cases of COVID19 and meeting the reporting requirements to public health.
The Washington Department of Health says physical distancing is recommended and schools must have a plan that factors in physical distancing (3 feet physical distancing in classrooms and 6 feet elsewhere) to the greatest extent possible.
Physical distancing recommendations should not prevent a school from offering full-time, in-person learning to all Washington students/families this fall.
Schools should also have a contingency plan that does not include physical distancing. It is likely that schools will need to continue current physical distancing requirements over the summer, however, this requirement may be relaxed prior to the start of the fall.