Aug. 11, 2021 — On Aug. 3, 2021, the Oregon Department of Education released the updated guidance for the upcoming school year, the Ready Schools Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 21-22 School Year (click here).
This updated guidance is a pivot back to state mandates for the reopening of school this year. The legal citations related to these mandates, and the authority to enforce penalties, are linked here –
- Masking Requirements in Schools – OAR 333-019-1015 – investigation and control of diseases
- Public Health Programs & Activities – ORS 431A.010 – authorized actions, rules, penalties
- Disease and Condition Control – ORS 433.004 – reportable diseases, effect of failure to report
- Proclamation of Public Health Emergency – ORS 433.441
- Authority of Public Health Director – ORS 433.443
Penalties assessed by the Oregon Health Authority at the school or district level for lack of enforcement or negligence will result in a civil penalty of $500 per day per violation. One violation per school site (elementary, middle, high school & alternative school) per day over the course of the school year for the Siuslaw School District would be approximately $362,000.
Complaints about lack of enforcement or negligence made to the Oregon Health Authority or to the Oregon Department of Education will be referred to Oregon OSHA for further investigation. Under the Oregon Safe Employment Act, a school district the size of Siuslaw may be fined up to $12,500 per violation incident, depending upon the level of harm (OAR 437-001-0145). Repeated violations may be multiplied based upon severity and the number of total repeat violations (OAR 437-001-1065).
Licensed educators (teachers, counselors, administrators) that fail to obey the mask directives may also be cited by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission for their failure to act as an ethical educator:
- OAR 584-020-0035 (3) – Respect & obey the law, exemplify integrity and honesty
- OAR 584-020-0040 (4)(n) – Gross neglect of duty
When an educator is reported for violations under the ethics standards for allowing masking violations, the most likely result would be some form of licensure penalty (suspension or revocation) by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. But it is in gross neglect of duty where school personnel would find themselves potentially, personally liable for any costs related to the illnesses traced back to students under their supervision that were allowed to go unmasked during the period of the state mandate.
MASKS: All students, staff, and visitors will wear a mask during instructional activities during the school day
- Masks are required on school buses: to and from school, to and from athletic events, and for field trips and activities. School busses are considered public transportation and are under federal guidelines (click here).
- A face shield may be worn instead of a mask if an individual cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, as stated in a student’s IEP or 504 plan.
When is a mask not required at school or for school-related activities?
- When a student is actively eating or drinking during a meal or snack time
- During outside group ‘mask breaks’ when physical distancing can be maintained
- Playing a musical instrument that requires use of their mouth
- During PE class activities when the mask could be a hazard – swimming, wrestling, gymnastics, tumbling, etc.
- During off-campus, outdoor field trips when physical distancing can be maintained
- Before school hours (prior to 7:45am) or after school hours (after 3:45pm) for tutoring, clubs or activities when physical distancing can be maintained
Is this rule for the full 2021-2022 school year?
NO – The OHA will review the public health conditions monthly; the goal is to go back to local decision-making.
The district will continue to work with Lane County Public Health throughout the year as conditions change locally.
PHYSICAL DISTANCING: As described in the guidance, the district will support and promote physical distancing in multiple ways, including:
- Maintaining three feet between students where possible.
- Consider physical distancing requirements when setting up learning spaces.
- Minimize time standing in lines and take steps to ensure required distance is maintained, including floor markings and one-way traffic flow in constrained spaces.
COHORTING & COHORT LOGS: As described in the guidance, the District will develop cohorts to the extent possible.
- This will take place to some degree at all grade levels, with more at the lower grade levels, and less at the upper grade levels due to instructional constraints.
- Cohort Logs and attendance data will be kept and referred to as necessary.
- Cohorts help manage risks in the potential spread of COVID-19; student cohorting:
- Limits the number of exposed people when a COVID-19 case is identified in the school.
- Quickly identifies exposed individuals when a COVID-19 case is identified.
- Minimizes the number of people who may need to quarantine, as well as school-wide disruptions in student learning.
MEAL TIMES: In all buildings, increased physical distancing will be emphasized during meal times.
- Students may remove masks while actively eating or drinking during meal times
- When students are done actively eating or drinking, they must put their mask back on if they are sitting at a table and socializing with others.
INFORMATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO KEEP SICK CHILDREN AT HOME: This has always been something the district has tried to do to avoid the spread of contagious illnesses, not just COVID-19. This practice will be emphasized again at the start of the school year.
- Please keep your children home if they are displaying any symptoms of illness. A general health screener to attend school can be accessed here.
- Everyone should be symptom free for at least 24 hours after a general illness before returning to school.
ENTRY SCREENING: Not having sick staff or students come into the building is one of the best ways to stop the spread of any virus.
ISOLATION ROOMS: As advised by ODE and OHA, the district will have exclusion and isolation protocols for sick students and staff identified at the time of arrival or during the school day.
EXCLUSION FROM SCHOOL: School administrators are required by Oregon law to enforce exclusion OAR 333-019-0010.
- Students and staff are required to isolate when they exhibit “primary symptoms” of COVID-19 per symptom specific guidance.
Quarantine / Exclusion – explanatory notes
- A person is considered to be ‘exposed’ when they were within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes in one day of someone that has COVID-19.
- Unvaccinated persons that were exposed would begin a period of quarantine or isolation, as determined by the local public health authority.
- Fully vaccinated persons would not need to quarantine
- If a school cannot confirm that 3 feet of physical distance with consistent mask use was maintained during the school day, then each person that was in close contact would need to begin quarantine.
- K-12 Quarantine Exception – Quarantine is not necessary for students who were within 3 feet of a person with COVID-19 when –
- Students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting face-coverings and
- Other K-12 school prevention strategies were in place during the school day
- This exception does not apply to teachers, staff or other adults in the indoor classroom setting
AIR FILTRATION: Prior to COVID-19, most schools used MERV-8 filters in their HVAC systems.
- In 2020-21 the Siuslaw School District upgraded to the use of MERV-10 to MERV-13 filters on all primary HVAC systems, depending upon location.
- HVAC and ductless systems across the district have also been equipped with iWave units, which disperse both positive and negative ions into the air stream to break down mold, bacteria, and viruses. Other suspended particles, like dust and pollen, become bonded together and large enough to be filtered out.
INCREASED AIR EXCHANGE: The facilities staff have set up HVAC systems for maximum air exchange in learning spaces, as allowed by the constraints of the outside temperatures.
HAND WASHING & USE OF HAND SANITIZER: Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Each building will continue with protocols and systems to ensure access to soap, water and alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
INCREASED SANITATION BY CUSTODIANS AND STAFF: Continue with cleaning of high touch surfaces both throughout the day and after school.
COVID-19 TESTING: The Siuslaw School District will continue to have diagnostic testing available on campus for students and staff that become ill or that may have been exposed to COVID-19 while on campus.
TRAINING: Training for staff and students will occur at the beginning of the year regarding all of the safety protocols in place. It will take a team effort to ensure our schools can stay open to in-person instruction, and everyone has a responsibility to do their part. The safety measures listed above provide an excellent opportunity to experience a full school year, and limit the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Activity & Athletic Programs: Oregon School Activity Association athletic programs are voluntary activities – masks are not required of coaches and athletes during practices and competitions.
- Siuslaw staff and other people that work at athletic games and competitions (scoreboards, scorebooks, line judges, ticket takers, game supervisors, etc.) are strongly encouraged to wear a mask during these events, but are not required to wear a mask.
- Spectators at athletic competitions will be strongly encouraged to wear a mask at events, but not required. As seating capacity allows in the stands or bleachers, please try to maintain at least 3 feet of space between your family and the next nearest group.
Finally, a few additional pieces of important information:
- Face coverings mean more days in school for students. The district is required to enforce quarantining and isolation protocols. When a case of COVID-19 is identified in our school, we will contract trace with the assistance of our staff and District Nurse. When students are at least 3 feet apart and everyone is wearing a face covering, students who are in close contact with someone that has COVID-19 don’t need to quarantine unless they have symptoms. Without masks during the school day, every student that is unvaccinated would be considered ‘exposed’ and required to quarantine for 14 days.
- One of the biggest challenges students will face is the disruption of instruction when required to isolate or quarantine. General instruction will be interrupted for those individuals, just like in any other illness situation. Simultaneous live instruction will not be provided when this occurs. The district will work with families individually to support student learning with the least interruption.
A shift into Comprehensive Distance Learning will only be made when it is mandated for an entire grade level or school by a public health agency as required to slow or stop a localized outbreak.
- The best education and interpersonal connections our students will have is in the classroom with their teachers and classmates. Comprehensive distance learning is no substitute, even when it is carried out in real time. Asynchronous digital learning provides even less social and academic connection than CDL. While CDL and computer based learning do work well for some students, the classroom is the best environment for the majority of our students in the community.
- For students that are medically compromised and do need a digital learning option, the Siuslaw School District has a partnership with the Metro-East Web Academy to provide distance education this year.
Link to Distance Learning 2021-2022 Information Page
Unique notes – Non-instructional settings
Professional Educators and Staff working in isolation – school staff that are working by themselves (no one else in the room) in a private office or room with a door that is closed do not need to wear a mask at that time.
School Board Meetings – The administrative recommendation would be the following:
- School Board meetings are conducted in masks for all that people are in attendance
- This would be consistent with the expectations of school staff and students in the RSSL guidance
- This addresses all aspects of legal compliance with the state mandates
- Until the Mask Mandate is lifted, attendance at Board Meetings should be limited to: Board Members, Superintendent, Business Manager, Executive Secretary and Selected Staff
- Public Input at Board Meetings – This has always been at the discretion of the Board:
- To be in compliance with House Bill 2560 and avoid any issues with overcrowding the board room until the end of the mask mandate, any public input should be taken through Zoom
- We will be continuing to use Zoom as an alternative for Board members that cannot be onsite while they are away for business, so there is no additional process added here
- When all boards return to regular in-person meetings, an electronic means of public comment must also be available if a board is taking comment during the meeting ORS 192.670 (3)(b) & (c)
- An ‘electronic means’ could be Zoom, or by phone, or by email – if it was checked within a day or two of the meeting