October 30, 2020
Dear North Clackamas Parents/Guardians,
Out of an abundance of concern for public health and the safety of students and staff our school board recently authorized the continuation of Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) through February 9, 2021. The Board of Directors also agreed to revisit this timeline if the required COVID-19 Oregon Health Metrics for in-person instruction were modified.
Earlier today, the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Education, and the Governor’s Office released new state health metrics that provide guidance for the reopening of schools in Oregon.
The health metrics for reopening schools in Oregon have changed in the following ways:
- Encourages school districts to utilize an equity lens in their decision-making regarding the reopening of schools.
- Moves from a mandatory 21-day look back of positive COVID-19 cases to a 14-day look back of positive cases.
- Suspends the previously required statewide test positivity rate.
- Expands the reopening exception for in-person learning to include all grades in elementary schools.
- Allows a school district to consider phasing in on-site or hybrid instruction for elementary schools when the county positive case rate per 100,000 people is between 50 to 100 and the county test positivity rate is between 5% to 8% over two weeks.
- Allows on-site or hybrid instruction for all students when the county case rate per 100,000 people is less than 50 and the county test positivity rate is less than 5% over two weeks.
- Encourages school districts to consider staff and student enrollment in neighboring counties and the virus rates in those counties in their decision making.
We are still reviewing this new information and evaluating what it will mean for our district; however, we wanted to share this announcement with you right away. In the meantime, we will remain in Comprehensive Distance Learning until further notice.
Our next scheduled school board meeting is November 12, where the school board will review the latest metric outcomes and discuss the application of an equity lens to their decision-making regarding the reopening of schools.
In North Clackamas Schools we have a commitment to the public health of our community and the safety of both students and staff. This includes a thorough consideration of how the virus transmission rates are affecting all of our community members. Of particular concern are the disproportionate test positivity rates for Oregonians who identify as Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaska Native, Black/African American, and Hispanic/Latinx.
Switching our educational delivery model from CDL to another (or multiple models) is complex and it is estimated it will take four to five weeks to transition. Among many factors, the district will need to consider:
- A survey of families on who will and will not return to in-person instruction.
- A survey of staff to determine who can safely return to in-person instruction.
- The recall of over 200 laid-off employees and/or the multi-week hiring and training process of new employees.
- The reassignment of students to new teachers in the event of multiple delivery models.
- The training of staff in numerous safety protocols and professional development for how to teach students in an environment that will not allow for close partner or small group interaction.
- Building a new class schedule and student rosters that reflect those returning to in-person instruction.
- Redesigning bus routes given the new safety protocols and who will and will not utilize district transportation.
I share all this information with you at a time when Oregon is seeing the highest number of cases per week since the pandemic began. To further complicate the roll-out of in-person learning, Clackamas County Public Health Officials have advised that North Clackamas School District currently has seven schools (nearly 25 percent) with confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the school staff or students. This is before any in-person student activity. The reopening of our schools will most likely lead to the quarantining of students and/or staff (and perhaps family members). I share this information with you not to scare you, but to share with you the reality of reopening schools.
We recently conducted a survey via our Thought Exchange platform. In that exchange, it was evident our community has polarized opinions on in-person instruction. The school board continues to review the comments from the completed Thought Exchange, consider the health metrics and where they are trending, and be considerate of an equity lens in their decision-making processes.
I know everyone wants nothing more than to welcome our students back to school when it is safe to do so. Everyone can help by wearing their mask, washing their hands, and maintaining physical distance from one another.
Clearly, our school board and staff have much to consider and considerable work to do before we can welcome our youngest students back into our physical classrooms. I will continue to keep you updated as decisions are made and timelines established.
North Clackamas Schools