In the latest version of its Ready Schools, Safe Learners plan, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) provided guidelines to allow for limited in-person instruction for specific groups of students — namely students experiencing disabilities (SPED), English Language learners (ELL) and high school students in Career Technical Education (CTE) — without meeting the state-mandated health metrics that are being applied to the District at large. To have limited in-person instruction for these designated groups, the District would need to:
- Verify that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among any school staff or students in the 14 days leading up to the start of in-person instruction.
- Comply fully with Sections 1-3 of the Operational Blueprint, defined in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance.
- Comply fully with further limitations on cohort sizes, length of instruction day and more.
Since receiving this new guidance, District teams in these areas — SPED, ELL and CTE — have been considering how we could safely bring staff and students back in September prior to bringing back any other student groups. Despite our strong desire to instruct your students in person, we have serious reservations about the execution of such a plan. Our concerns include the following:
- ODE has provided inadequate guidance on how to determine who should and should not qualify for services. In addition, the District hasn’t been provided enough information about how to implement the requirement for 14 days of negative COVID-19 testing for staff and students or procedures for what to do if someone does test positive after in-person instruction begins. Recent examples of in-person instruction across the country indicate that when students and staff are brought together for in-person instruction, the number of positive COVID-19 cases increases. Efforts to receive further guidance from ODE have not yielded any new information to this point.
- Attendance group cohorts would be limited to two, including students’ transportation cohort, meaning we’d be unable to serve those students who receive both Special Education and English Language Development services, as doing so would create a third cohort.
- High school CTE courses tend to be large. It‘s unclear how high schools could staff and schedule smaller cohorts of students to give all students access to these specific classrooms.
- To comply with Sections 1-3 of the Operational Blueprint would require additional time and collaboration with various district departments and schools — all of which are currently focused on preparing for Comprehensive Distance Learning. Additionally, a district-wide “hub system” would need to be developed and staffed.
- Finally, the allowance for in-person instruction is limited to only two consecutive hours per day, not a full-day of instruction.
Given these significant obstacles, BSD — like other districts in our area — will not be bringing students who receive Special Education services, English Language Development services or are enrolled in CTE courses to school for in-person instruction at this time. Instead we’ll continue to monitor health metrics to evaluate the safety of in-person instruction for all staff and continue to work on an effective implementation plan for the future.
In the meantime, we are committed to providing your students with the best online learning experience possible. Thank you for your continued support and understanding.