The Helix School District is focusing on the safe reentry of staff and students to our schools. The 2020-21 school year requires a level of planning, iteration, communication, and collaboration like none that we’ve known or led during my years of service in Oregon. School districts in Oregon have been given guidance representing thousands of hours of work from teams at ODE and OHA and input of thousands of Oregonians, including school leaders, teachers, health professionals, community partners, families, and students. OHA epidemiologists have helped to create and have vetted this guidance. We have exchanged thinking with several other state education agencies and shared notes with national experts to inform and test our thinking.
This model will provide statewide guidance for each school to independently plan for the 2020-21 school year. These individual plans will necessarily look different from community to community, as each school in Oregon serves diverse communities with distinct strengths and needs, each has unique physical structures, each includes different staff make-ups and local bargaining agreements, each has experienced varying degrees of impact from COVID-19 outbreaks, and each has access to various levels of readiness to respond to an outbreak.
For the 2020-21 school year, each public school will work under the direction of the school district to develop an Operational Blueprint for Reentry that is tailored to the local context and informed by local needs. Each Operational Blueprint for Reentry must address eight essential elements including Public Health Protocols; Equity; Instruction; and Family and Community Engagement. By August 15 or prior to the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, the local school board must review the Operational Blueprint for Reentry and make it available to the community online. The blueprints will require that every school, under the direction of the district, determine whether they teach all students on site, teach all students through new comprehensive distance learning or utilize a hybrid model.
This guidance requires a communicable disease management plan and close coordination between the schools, school districts, and the local public health authorities. The guidance places great responsibility at the hands of local school and health officials with state oversight to protect the health of all Oregonians. The efforts of counties to prepare their health systems through the Governor’s phased reopening process creates the readiness for schools to operate this fall.
The planning will be complex and challenging to ensure our schools open safely. Returning Oregon students to on-site learning is an enormous responsibility, and that responsibility is shared by schools, districts, and local and state health and education agencies.
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