Oregon governor releases guidelines for a safe return to school this fall

Jun 10 2020, 7:57 pm

On Wednesday, the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority released their guidelines for a safe return to school for the upcoming fall term.

As counties around the state begin to slowly reopen, a look ahead to the next school year will help ready organizations as keeping students safe remains one of the highest priorities.

“Over the last seven weeks our families and educators have faced extraordinary challenges to build on the strengths and meet the needs of our state’s children during a global pandemic,” writes Director of the Oregon Department of Education Colt Gill and Director of the Oregon Health Authority Pat Allen.

“The planning will be complex and challenging to ensure our schools open safely.”

The 47-page document focuses on planning and prevention and includes public health protocols that break down into areas like communicable disease management, high-risk population, face coverings, and entry screening processes.

The guideline specifies plans for school attendance, use of technology, playgrounds, transportation to and from school, and more.

Enrollment guidelines suggest that parents do not disenroll students if they cannot attend school because they are high-risk or have symptoms. Rather, programs will be made available for full-time online students or hybrid enrollment students.

In that vein, attendance will be calculated normally for physically present students, with a suggestion for digital attendance check-ins. The document notes that attendance records will have reduced accuracy due to the digital curriculum.

To contribute to student health in a digital enrollment setting, the guideline lays out suggestions that boards communicate and survey students/parents to get a firm understanding of the type and condition of technology available for use in students’ homes. It also suggests that schools establish a technical support and help desk to stay on top of technological needs.

Further guidelines involve cleaning and sanitizing, furniture and seating distances, what to do about libraries and high-volume areas, and how to properly protect students before, during, and after time on the playgrounds.

As for instructional learning, this new guideline specifically draws out three paths. On-site instruction will function as normal and asserts that all students must have access provided public health requirements are met.

The second is the hybrid model, where attendance is staggered or prioritized by grade and supplemented by online course work.

The third is distance learning, which states that “any effort to provide off-site or remote learning in 2020-21 requires in-depth and robust planning.” This model is still under construction, and the document suggest that this guidance will be released in the “near future.”

For now, a “short-term” distance model is in place and has been in use by some school boards since the shutdown of facilities in the early spring.

A complete look at all of the details can be found on the Oregon Department of Education website.

Wyatt FossettWyatt Fossett

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