Jan. 27, 2021 — The Oregon Department of Education (OED) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released their newest update to Ready Schools, Safe Learners on Jan. 19. This is the framework the state’s school districts are following as they educate students through comprehensive distance learning, limited in-person instruction and the eventual return to campus.
The reopening of schools was the main component of the new update, prompted by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in December.
As part of her statement, the governor said, “It is my hope that more Oregon schools, especially elementary schools, will transition to in-person instruction by Feb. 15.”
She said that Oregon’s school boards, superintendents, educators and staff will be working toward that goal “to the greatest extent possible.”
Since then, ODE and OHA have been working on Version 5.5 of Ready Schools, Safe Learners, https://5il.co/itws. The update details the “transition to advisory metrics for local decision-making for returning to in-person instruction” and replaces prior guidance.
In a new introduction, ODE and OHA wrote, “Returning to in-person instruction is one of Oregon’s highest priorities. This priority goes hand-in-hand with supporting the health and safety of our students, staff and the families they return to each day. Schools not only provide the education that Oregon’s children need to succeed, but schools also provide for social-emotional growth and support, nutritious meals and access to medical care.
“We have been living with COVID-19 for approximately one year in Oregon and it will be with us for a long time to come. … Through a measured and thoughtful approach, we can prioritize a quality education for Oregon’s children.”
One of the reasons that reopening will be possible this spring is because vaccinations have begun to be administered in Oregon, with the state’s educators scheduled to be inoculated beginning this week.
In addition, health organizations have learned best practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in structured and regulated environments like schools.
As of Jan. 1, the health metrics for returning to in-person instruction shifted from a mandatory requirement to advisory recommendations. This allows schools to work with public health authorities to determine when it is appropriate to shift to in-person instruction through an on-site or hybrid instructional model.
They will look at the following factors:
“It remains critical that the community case counts are low enough that the community is not regularly introducing new COVID-19 cases into the school — which destabilizes the learning environment as contact tracing leads to quarantining,” ODE and OHA wrote.
In addition, any reopening will also include entry health screening, mandated face coverings, physical distancing, cohorts, sanitation and handwashing.
The Ready Schools update also includes “Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools,” which can be read at https://5il.co/ovsm. This document outlines the potential scenarios for illness isolation, temporary school closures and returning to on-campus instruction after illnesses in the event of COVID-19 cases on campus.
As for school athletic programs, they will be operating under the indoor and outdoor recreation guidelines based on county level risk assessments. The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) will update the conditions for school athletics as allowed by the OHA on Feb. 8.
This week, Siuslaw School District held Re-Opening Information Sessions on Jan. 25 and 26, with the last of three forums held tonight, Jan. 27, from 6 to 7 p.m. in Zoom, and can be accessed through the following link: https://siuslaw.zoom.us/j/94881368376. These sessions will help students, parents and the community understand the recently released guidelines from the state and Siuslaw’s reopening framework.
“Thank you to all for your patience as school staff navigate implementation of these directives from the state as we all strive to do what is in the best interest of students, families, staff and the community,” said Siuslaw Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak. “The administrative team looks forward to answering your questions now that detailed guidance is in hand.”
For an update from both the Siuslaw and Mapleton school districts on their reopening plans, read the Saturday, Jan. 30, edition of the Siuslaw News.
Note: For more information on the reopening, people can visit: