On March 22, the Oregon Department of Education updated Ready Schools Safe Learners in regards to social distancing:
- It reduced the required social distancing between students from 6 feet to 3 feet in elementary school classrooms.
- It reduced the required social distancing between students from 6 feet to 3 feet in middle and high school classrooms in counties with case rates of <200. (Washington County currently has a case rate of 89.7.)
- It removed the spacing requirement of 35 feet per person and revised the recommendations to align with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
- It still recommends 6 feet of distancing in common areas, like cafeterias and gyms.
- The 6-foot standard continues to be the threshold of close contact for exposure determination by public health, even for students for whom at least 3 feet of physical distance from other students is recommended as a preventive measure.
These new guidelines are optional. It’s up to each school district to decide what best meets the needs of their students and staff.
So what does this mean for our plan for In-Person Hybrid Instruction? In short, there’ll be no changes. Like the majority of school districts in the metro area, we will not be making any adjustments, especially as Hybrid is set to start in a few short days. Here are the factors that we considered in our decision:
- In February and March, we asked families in our district to choose either Hybrid or Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) for their students, based on the safety protocols that we outlined. We believe that the District would be acting in bad faith if we were to change those protocols now without re-surveying our families. We are mindful of how few weeks are left in this school year and don’t want to further delay our return to physical classrooms.
- Our teams have spent months preparing and training for our return to school. We’ve also spent a great deal of time informing our parents and students about what to expect. We need to provide all groups with predictability and consistency moving into these next few weeks.
- If we were to reduce the spacing requirement and allow all secondary Hybrid students to come four days instead of two days per week, we would have great difficulty in meeting the 6-foot spacing during lunch (as detailed in Ready Schools Safe Learners) without a complete overhaul of the middle and high school schedules.
- On March 10, the District signed an agreement with the Beaverton Education Association (BEA), the union that represents educators in our district. This agreement was the result of shared interests in maintaining safety and stability for our community. It states that the District will abide by the safety protocols outlined in Ready Schools Safe Learners, which as of that date included the 6-feet social distancing requirement. The agreement also states that we’ll maintain consistency in our protocols and routines while students are in Hybrid instruction.
Of course, the factors above only apply to this school year — not next school year. We are increasingly hopeful that the start of the 2021-22 school year will look far more “normal.” Thank you to everyone for all you’ve done to curb the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to welcoming students back in the coming days!