The new document also covers summer school, summer bridge programs, extended school year, compensatory education, enrichment programs and re-entry programs for incarcerated youths. Public health and safety considerations and consultation with the Oregon Health Authority frame all ODE’s recommendations.
Executive order 20-20, which closed schools through June 30, allows limited in-person instruction within guidelines laid down by ODE and OHA.
The new guidance includes a requirement that all educational settings designate someone to “establish, implement and enforce social distancing requirements.” Prior to starting in-person learing, schools must have an emergency procedures plan that includes dealing with a virus outbreak. OSBA can provide sample policies.
ODE is allowing schools to prioritize in-person instruction for students earning credit for on-time graduation, completing a high school equivalency program, finishing dual-credit or accelerated learning classes, or earning career and technical education certifications.
In-person instruction should only be used when Distance Learning for All won’t work, such as when a student needs a secure testing environment or equipment only available at school.
In-person lessons should be limited in number, not daily, and held in one classroom with 10 or fewer of the same cohort of students.
School leaders are approaching potential in-person learning cautiously.
West Linn-Wilsonville School District teachers have already been creative at meeting students’ needs, said Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Aaron Downs before the guidance was released.
“Right now, we feel pretty good about our connection with seniors,” he said. “I don’t see us as having a need to bring students in.”
Decisions for the district south of Portland would be made on an individual level, he said.
Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall said his district south of Portland is also positioned to graduate this year’s seniors and to help other levels advance.
“I think right now we are trying to get better and better at what we have been tasked to do, which is distance learning at every level,” Goodall said.
With less than four weeks of school left, he wasn’t sure how much benefit in-person lessons would be except for possibly some of the most vulnerable students who it has been difficult to serve.
ODE’s guidance again instructs schools to center their decisions on equity.
“Magnified by the COVID-19 crisis, youth who have been pushed to the edge of the educational system carry the disproportionate weight of meeting academic requirements with challenging factors and conditions,” the guidance says.
When considering students eligible for summer programs, schools should look at the students most affected by the closures, the guidance says.
Summer school programs can operate between June 1 and Sept. 4 if the school can meet all ODE’s health and safety obligations.
The summer school rules for classrooms mirror the in-person guidance. ODE recommends that students should stay in one room and teachers change classes if multiple instructors are required.
The guidance includes estimates of how much space is needed for a classroom while maintaining 6 feet of distance. A class with 10-13 people would need 216 square feet.
Canby Superintendent Goodall said earlier this week his district is trying to decide if there is even still time to set up summer school. The school would need to figure out the logistics of any health or distancing measures, and staff are already fully loaded working out the mechanics of distance learning.
“It’s not a plug-in type of program,” he said.
Canby is considering some sort of distance learning programs for summer, particularly for students who need extra opportunities or credit recovery, he said.
“There’s no blueprint for how school districts are expected to operate right now,” he said. “The blueprint is constantly having changes made to it.”