PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The Oregon Department of Education released updated guidance and metrics Tuesday for when schools can return to in-person learning.
ODE first released "Ready Schools, Safe Learners" guidance in Aug. 2020 for public schools across the state. The guidance was developed under the direction of Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority.
The new metrics announced Tuesday are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, according to ODE.
"We are providing school leaders with the information they need to make local decisions about returning to in-person instruction," said ODE Director Colt Gill. "We all know that in-person instruction provides our children and families with access to an equitable education. Schools are a center of services to students and families, offering nutritious meals, access to social-emotional and mental health supports, as well as physical health services. This guidance provides new resources to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and better meet students’ needs in this time."
ODE says the key changes to the metrics include:
- Gov. Brown returned the decision for operating schools in-person to the local level on January 1, 2021. This guidance provides local leaders with guidance, information, and resources they need to make informed decisions.
- Updated advisory metrics aligned to the Harvard Global Health Institute recommendations. These metrics allow for a return to in-person instruction for elementary students at higher levels of community case rates than previously recommended.
- A new requirement, that when students and staff return to in-person instruction out of alignment with the metrics, schools must offer access to on-site COVID-19 testing for symptomatic students and staff identified on campus as well as those with known exposure to individuals with COVID-19.
- Multiple new resources to support learning outside, field trips, equitable grading practices, attendance best practices, contact tracing partnerships, COVID-19 testing, and more.
The new guidance takes effect immediately.
ODE says schools must focus on two critical factors when making decisions about returning to in-person learning:
- It remains important that the community case counts (or case rates) are low enough that the community is not regularly introducing new COVID-19 cases into the school. The county metrics remain the best tool for determining when cases are down enough to return to in-person instruction.
- The ability to implement public health and safety protocols in the school with fidelity. Oregon’s guidance is comprehensive and includes diligent entry screening, universal use of face coverings, physical distancing, cohorting, frequent handwashing, and over 160 other requirements for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
For more information on the updated "Ready Schools, Safe Learners" guidance, click here.