ODE FAQs Regarding Coronavirus 2020 – 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, schools across Oregon have been called upon by Governor Brown to prepare for the 2020-21 school year. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) have created guidelines for schools to plan for in-person learning, distance learning or a hybrid model. Given the equity challenges that all schools faced resulting from school closures in the spring, it is likely that a hybrid solution will be implemented by many schools, but that is still yet to be determined.

For your reference, Wiscarson Law has reviewed the guidelines created by ODE and OHA, and has provided answers to frequently asked questions, below.

You can find the entirety of “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” here: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Documents/Ready%20Schools%20Safe%20Learners%202020-21%20Guidance.pdf

Generally:

Planning for the 2020-21 Year

Before the beginning of the school year, every school in Oregon (including private schools and charters) will determine whether they will teach students on-site, through Distance Learning, or using a “hybrid” model. Each school is required to develop an “Operational Blueprint for Reentry.” The Blueprint needs to meet the requirements outlined in “Ready Schools, Safe Learners.” “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” is guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education that outlines how schools need to clean, appropriately socially distance, etc. After schools develop their Blueprint, the Blueprint is submitted to the School Board and online.

You can find the entirety of “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” here: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Documents/Ready%20Schools%20Safe%20Learners%202020-21%20Guidance.pdf

Operational Blueprint for Reentry

There are eight areas required to be addressed in the Blueprint. These areas include public health protocols, facilities and school operations, response to outbreak, equity, instruction, family and community engagement, mental, social, and emotional health, and staffing and personnel. The school board does not have to approve each Blueprint; however, by August 15, 2020 (or the beginning of the year, whichever is first) districts need to be submitted to the school board, made available to the community, and submitted to ODE.

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Who needs to develop the Operational Blueprint?

Each school (under the direction of the district or sponsoring district) is responsible.

What if my child’s school doesn’t submit an Operational Blueprint?

Under the Governor’s Executive Order, ODEOde has the authority to intervene if a district is non-compliant with the guidance. It’s expected that a new Executive Order will be issued by June 30, 2020 that provides ongoing authority.

What if there is a COVID-19 outbreak at my child’s school?

The Oregon Health Authority and Local Public Health Authorities determine if there is an outbreak. If a district decides to use on-site or a hybrid model, the district needs to include a response to an outbreak in their Blueprint.

Safety: Face Coverings/Shields and Distancing

Do all staff and students need to wear face masks?

No. People who are required to wear masks/face coverings include the following:

  • Staff who are within six feet of others (such as paraprofessionals who provide personal care)
  • Staff who sustain close contact/interaction with students
  • Bus drivers
  • Staff preparing food
  • Speech Language Pathologists and assistants
  • Front office staff

Nurses must wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment. Students are not required to wear face coverings; students who do not wear face coverings must still be provided access to instruction.

It is recommended, although not required, that the following people wear masks as well:

  • All staff
  • Staff who interact with the public
  • Students in 6th-12th grade, especially when physical distancing is not possible

What are the requirements for physical distancing?

Daily activities and instructions should strive to maintain at least six feet between people. All schools need to establish at least thirty-five square feet per person to determine how many individuals can safely physically distance in each room. Districts will need to:

  • Establish a minimum of 35 square feet per person (including usable classroom space, and considering desk and room set up)
  • Support physical distancing in all activities
  • Minimize standing in lines
  • Mark spaces such as one-way traffic
  • Limit the number of students in the building (i.e. rotating groups or staggered schedules)
  • Plan for students who will need more support

Instruction

What instructional models will be used during the 2020-21 school year?

Districts have a choice in how they want to provide instruction during the 2020-21 school year. They can utilize one of three models – onsite, hybrid, or “comprehensive distance learning.” Each school needs to decide which model will best meet their needs. Some factors to consider include local COVID-19 status, building capacity, staffing, needs of student and staff, enrollment, community input, and technology, among others. Schools should strive to comply with all instructional time requirements set forth in a traditional year. Future guidance is anticipated to further clarify what this should look like.

What is a hybrid “cohort?”

A cohort is a small group of students designed to minimize in person interactions at school. A cohort should be no larger than can be safely accommodated to provide 35 square feet per person (as mentioned above.) Different schools are planning on using cohorts in different ways. Only one cohort at a time should use playground equipment.

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Examples:

Beaverton School District

BSD will be offering two possible paths for students in the District during the 2020-2021 school year.

Path #1) Students can attend their regular BSD school. BSD will be implementing a hybrid model in which cohorts will attend in-person classes using staggered schedules.

Path #2) Enroll in a fully virtual K-12 school called FLEX online. This is a permanent school that’s designed to be entirely virtual. For kids with IEP or 504 plans, a meeting likely needs to be held to determine if their needs can be met through the FLEX program.

Others

So far, three districts in Oregon have released their Operational Blueprints. You can find the Blueprints here: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Pages/2020-21-Sample-Plans.aspx

Additional guidance is anticipated to be released on July 21, 2020.

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