OSBA encourages support of the thousands of Oregonians displaced by wildfires in this time of crisis. OSBA is telling personal stories of hope and perseverance from the state’s three hardest-hit districts: Phoenix-Talent, McKenzie and Santiam Canyon. These “Rising from the Ashes” stories, told in images and words, will show where support is needed most to help Oregon students and their families rebuild.
Medford School District fire resources
Phoenix-Talent School District fire resources
United Way of Jackson County
Donate at Rogue Credit Union
Douglas Education Service District fire resources
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network wildfire resources
Parent Guidelines for Helping Children Impacted by Wildfires (PDF)
Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event (PDF)
Helping Children With ASD Adjust To The Major Fires
Reach out Oregon
Can schools pay staff during school closures caused by the fires?
Check your CBAs. Many agreements detail how school staff will be paid when schools are closed for inclement weather, unforeseen circumstances, or other emergencies. Often, the agreements state that staff must be paid during school closures due to conditions outside the control of the school, but that staff may be required to make up work days at a later date, without additional compensation.
If the CBA is silent on this question, check your policies and past practices. If the school wants to pay its staff during school closures caused by the fires, we recommend it do so with the express condition that staff may have to work rescheduled days at a later date without additional compensation. As this involves pay and hours, it is a mandatory subject of bargaining, and will need to be memorialized in an MOU.
Can a school offer its facilities to assist with the wildfire evacuations?
While it is understandable that schools want to help their communities and neighboring communities during fire evacuations, there are issues that schools should consider before offering its facilities to community members that have been evacuated. First, in most instances there are already designated evacuation centers set up by federal, state and/or local officials. Schools should consult with those officials, including the local health authorities, prior to rerouting evacuees to school facilities. There may be health and housing regulations that need to be followed in these types of situations and the school may not be equipped to follow those regulations. Again, a school should contact local officials before taking any action on its own.
If a school has been approached by their county to host an evacuation center, the school should enter into a written indemnification agreement between the county and the school to indemnify the school for the services and facilities offered to the county. The school should have the agreement reviewed by legal counsel prior to entering into the agreement. It is recommended that the school official check their board policies before allowing school facilities to be used for evacuation purposes, or before entering into a contract to provide such services. Whether the superintendent, charter director or community college president has authority on their own without board approval to agree to provide such services or enter into such contract is dependent on board policy and the employment contract between the chief executive and the school. The school official should consult board policy and their contract before proceeding without board approval.
Further, a school is still responsible for enforcing the ODE COVID-19 guidance regarding visitors on the property. This includes enforcing social distancing requirements and requiring the use of facial coverings while in or on school property. If a school is considering only offering its facilities to its employees and their families, this may create an ethics violation (i.e., public employees receiving a benefit not available to the public). To avoid any potential ethics issue, the school board would need to vote to make this benefit a part of the school employees’ official compensation package and the school would need to contact any applicable labor associations to see if this is an issue that needs to be bargained before taking action.
Can the school board have an emergency board meeting as the result of a fire in the community?
Maybe. Whether an emergency board meeting can be held will be fact specific. First, an actual emergency must exist, and the minutes of the meeting must describe the emergency justifying less than 24 hours’ notice. Second, any actual emergency must relate to the matter to be discussed at the emergency meeting. An actual emergency on one matter does not justify the board’s emergency treatment of all business coming before it. When an emergency meeting is held, the school must provide as much notice as the emergency allows. The board must attempt to contact the media and other interested persons to inform them of the meeting and all other public meeting requirements must be followed.