An emergency waiver provided to the Glide School District by the Oregon Department of Education will not allow the school to reopen to in-person learning any sooner.
Glide School District was among 25 school districts impacted by wildfires that can offer in-person instruction to students who were displaced due to loss of their home or that remain in Level 3 Evacuation Zones.
Glide was already offering in-person instruction to kindergarten through third grade and seventh through 12th grade, as those qualified for other exemptions listed in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance from the state. This meant the emergency waiver would apply to students in fourth through sixth grade who lost their home in the fire.
Superintendent Mike Narkiewicz said this only affected one student and that family “chose to remain in Comprehensive Distance Learning, so the waiver had no impact on getting our students in grades (4-6) back in the classroom.”
The Oregon Department of Education provided several school districts, both public and private, with the emergency waiver because of the wildfires.
“Many students and families in communities impacted by wildfires are still displaced by active evacuation zones, loss of access to their home, or have seen a total loss of housing and infrastructure that has made accessing Comprehensive Distance Learning impossible,” the emergency waiver read. “Additionally, some schools that serve communities impacted by wildfires in Oregon are experiencing significant and widespread loss of internet connectivity, technology devices, and safe and supportive places to participate in online Comprehensive Distance Learning.”
Public and private schools within the boundaries of the McKenzie School District, Phoenix-Talent School District and Santiam Canyon School District are able to serve all students in person.
A driving force for the emergency waiver was the need for trauma to be addressed by social emotional and mental health support.
“If eligible public and private schools concur that current social emotional, mental health, and basic shelter and nutrition needs of students impacted by wildfires in Oregon outweigh the potential negative effects of increased of COVID-19 risks, which may be mitigated by employing additional safety measures; the schools may provide in-person services with additional provisions,” the waiver said.”For many of these students it is believed that the safest place in the community is at school.”
Schools will have to work with the local public health authority and follow sections 1-3 in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance. All schools must also create a Comprehensive Distance Learning option for students and families who do not want to take the additional risk.