School districts get ready for COVID-19 in 2022-23
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
The Oregon Department of Education met with superintendents this week to help prepare them for the coming school year. Nothing has really changed on COVID-19 protocols since the end of the last school year, but school districts still have some preparation requirements.
School districts, education service districts and public charter schools must file a COVID-19 management plan by the start of school or Aug. 26, whichever comes first. They must submit assurances to ODE that their plans consider equity, mental health and well-being, and learning continuity. Plans must also include staff training and be available to the public.
“Our North Star Goal is to provide equitable and inclusive access to full-time, in-person learning for every student, every school day,” said ODE Director Colt Gill. “Local school districts and local public health authorities will hold decision-making authority and responsibility for realizing the goal.”
Hermiston School Board Chair Josh Goller said student safety is their top priority but his community has also been clear they want a return to as normal a school year as possible, with health and safety decisions being made locally.
“At the end of the day, we’re excited to have our kids back in classrooms in the fall, and that is what we want to focus on,” he said.
Most decisions are in the hands of local school leaders.
Masking requirements, one of the most contentious issues, is at the discretion of school districts. ODE and the Oregon Health Authority continue to recommend, however, that schools institute universal mask usage when COVID-19 community levels are high.
ODE is hearing from schools that staffing will be one of their biggest challenges this year and COVID-19 outbreaks could worsen personnel shortages, Gill said. In addition to masking to halt COVID-19’s spread, Gill pointed to improving ventilation for classrooms and robust testing. OHA continues to offer testing programs to help schools manage their exposures.
Gill emphasized vaccinations as the best way to protect staff and students. Teachers and school staff still must be vaccinated or have an exception.
“Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for every student,” Gill said.