July 21, 2020
Dear NCSD Parents/Guardians:
Last week, we shared with you the educational delivery models we are developing for the 2020-2021 school year.
While we continue to develop these models, the cases of coronavirus across our country and state continue to escalate, reaching daily records in Oregon and in the nation. In Oregon, cases of COVID-19 that could not be traced back to a known infection source are driving the increase in infection rates. We are also seeing the number of cases increase in our youngest populations. These are all disturbing trends.
As you have read in many past communications, “The health and safety of our students and staff has been and continues to be our top priority.” If we truly believe in these words, we need to strongly question the return to in-person learning in the fall.
We want our students back in schools interacting with one another and their teachers while being aided by our amazing support staff. However, returning to school must be done in an environment that is safe for our students, staff, and families.
In a recent meeting with state officials, we were told that when we return to in-person learning even with the required safety protocols, physical distancing, cohorting requirements, and contract tracing, we will have virus outbreaks. Not only would outbreaks have potentially serious health ramifications for those infected (and their families), outbreaks would require the quarantine of students and staff for several weeks and require the shutdown of in-person learning. Repeated opening and closing of classrooms and schools would continue until the virus is better contained.
Opening schools will put students and staff at risk of contracting the virus. For some, this could result in serious health implications, including death. Also, reopening schools to in-person interaction will contribute to the spread of the virus in our community.
The North Clackamas School District is one of the largest employers in Clackamas County with over 2,000 employees. Recently, a staff survey revealed that:
- 50 percent of teachers and 59 percent of support staff are at-risk or have a family member who lives with them who is at-risk.
- 31 percent of teachers and 7 percent of support staff say they are considering leaving the profession, retiring early, or seeking a leave of absence.
We are worried we will not have the necessary staff to open schools to in-person learning in the fall given this data. We struggled to fill substitute and vacant positions prior to this pandemic, and we expect it will be far more difficult now.
We also worry about opening schools in the hybrid model only to have to close classrooms or schools when an outbreak occurs. This unpredictability of opening and closing schools over and over is not an effective way of operating a school system and has the potential to produce further trauma to students. This disruption would also put a strain on families not knowing from day to day or week to week whether a school will be open or closed.
Given all these factors, we are strongly considering starting school in the fall utilizing the Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) model through at least the first week in November. During this time, CDL is the safest and the most pedagogically sound model when done well.
The CDL is also the gateway back to partial (hybrid) or fully in-person learning. As a reminder, the following models are what NCSD is considering for the 2020-21 school year.
- Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL)--All students are engaged in daily interactive learning through virtual instruction utilizing North Clackamas teachers. CDL is rooted in strong instructional practices, effective teacher-student contact time, meaningful peer-to-peer interaction, equitable learning opportunities, and a consistent schedule. This model is utilized when in-person learning poses safety risks to students and staff. Once safe to do so, we could move into:
- Hybrid--Student groups have access to in-person instruction using staggered schedules in accordance with public health requirements. North Clackamas’ hybrid model would include two days per week of in-person instruction and three days at home with applied learning and will be the next step after Comprehensive Distance Learning.
Each of these models follows the Oregon Department of Education’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidelines and the Comprehensive Distance Learning guidance that may change based on the status and severity of COVID-19 as determined by public health authorities. As further guidance, district staff is in near-daily communications with state leaders, health department officials, and representatives from other school districts.
We assure you that in our planning process we are considering the impact on families if students remain at home. None of these models offers an ideal response to this complex situation, but our decisions will be grounded in the care and safety of our students, staff, and community. We know this virus has an especially negative impact on our communities of color; as a result, we will use our district’s equity lens when making decisions.
We are sharing this perspective with you today so you know what we are thinking and so you have time to think about what this means for you. Moving to the CDL model will have implications for job assignments and department staffing allocations. At this time, no decisions have been made regarding staffing allocations. If and/or when those decisions need to be made they will be done in consultation with your Association leadership.
We will have another update for you next week that will include a recommendation for our school board’s consideration at a special board meeting the week of July 27. In the meantime, please continue to check our Return to School 2020-2021 Webpage for up-to-date information.