Oregon’s guidance on schools reopening in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic echoed the governor’s latest guidance: more masks, small groups, social distancing and an abundance of cleaning.
“I don’t like it at all,” said parent Ashley Ireland about new face-covering guidance. “I know how it feels to have to wear it and I don’t think my kids should have to wear it at school.”
Ireland said she’s used to wearing a mask during her 12-hour shifts at the Roseburg VA Medical Center, but doesn’t think her children should wear a face covering that long.
“We’re not in a big population for us to have to worry about it,” she said.
The new guidance, released Wednesday, will require all students kindergarten and above to wear face coverings in class. The school guidance was released about 15 minutes after the governor ended her press conference, calling for more face coverings and smaller gatherings.
Gov. Kate Brown issued a list of new rules Wednesday designed to battle an increase in COVID…
To help meet the new face-covering requirement, the Oregon Department of Education is distributing 5 million face coverings to be used by students and staff, which were donated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I can’t really breathe in them,” said 9-year-old Lilly Garcia, who goes to school in Roseburg.
Students who do not wear face-coverings, or students whose families determine the student will not wear a face covering, during on-site instruction must receive access to alternative instruction, such as comprehensive distance learning.
Kyle Hanestad, 15, said face masks irritate his skin. He is set to start South Umpqua High School in the fall.
“I’m a freshman so I want to go experience high school and all that jazz,” he said. South Umpqua’s current plan is to reopen to on-site instruction.
Schools can choose between educational models: on-site education, comprehensive distance-learning or a hybrid between the two. Also, each school will need to have a short-term distance learning program in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
During Wednesday morning’s press conference, Gov. Kate Brown said, “We have got to get the virus rates down if we hope to get our children back in the classrooms.”
Ireland said she hopes schools will reopen to on-site learning in the fall because it’d be rough on her family to find someone to watch her children and help with homework while she’s at work.
Lucy Anderson, 11, who goes to school in Corvallis but was visiting Douglas County on Wednesday, said she will be “homeschooled” for another year. Her family opted into a comprehensive distance learning plan for the next school year.
“It would be just a miracle to see my friends and teachers even just for a day,” Lucy said. “It doesn’t matter how long or how much time I get to be with them, just as long as I get to see their faces and talk to them. I’d be a lot happier if I got to go to school and do some art and math and science, something new.”
If classes are not taking place in person, 50% of the course must be teacher-facilitated according to the new guidance. This means the learning experience is planned and guided by a licensed teacher and structured to develop, deepen and assess new knowledge and understanding in students.
The guidelines note that students are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and those with special needs will receive accommodations.
Cohorts, or groups of students, are recommended to be no larger than 24 to 36 students.
In the case of an outbreak it is the hope that only the cohort would be impacted and that those students could transfer to a short term distance learning model, while in-person or hybrid learning continues for other students outside of the cohort.
The plan states that people who are within 6 feet of each other for 15 minutes or longer pose a risk to public health and safety.
The Oregon School Activities Association also released its guidance Wednesday, which delayed the first contest date for cross country, soccer and volleyball until Sept. 23. But the executive board will meet again on Aug. 3 to further discuss school sports and activity guidance from the state.
Practices for cross country, soccer and volleyball are scheduled to start Aug. 17. Football, cheerleading and dance/drill are currently prohibited under Oregon Health Authority guidelines, because those are full-contact sports.
Each school district has the ability to close its facilities under the reopening guidance, a choice that will mostly be up to school boards and superintendents.
However, if the local public health authority has concerns about a school, those can be taken up with the state public health director or the Oregon Department of Education director. The health department can close any facility that poses a risk, and the Oregon Department of Education can withhold State School Fund payments as a last resort.
A letter by Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill noted that in the coming weeks guidance will be released on guideposts, protocols and public health indicators to determine the best instructional model for a given zip code or county. That information is expected to be released before the Aug. 11 update of the school reopening guidance.
“We continue to learn on a daily basis about COVID-19 and how school systems are responding across the U.S. and in nations across the world,” Gill said. “Our teams continue to scour that information for ways to improve what we’ve put forward while keeping in mind the values and guiding principles we’ve used to guide decision making.”