Resources, Updates, and Clarifications Regarding Instructional Models, Metrics, and CDL

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To:            Superintendents, Principals, Charter School and Private School Leaders
From:       Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education
Date:        September 24, 2020
Subject:   Resources, Updates, and Clarifications Regarding Instructional Models,
                 Metrics, and CDL

I can’t say thank you enough for everything you are doing to support our students, families, and educators. I know all of you are working day and night to meet their needs under incredibly difficult circumstances. Please know you, your leadership, and your efforts are deeply appreciated.

Oregon has now had more than one positive COVID-19 case in schools this fall. I want to thank Superintendent David Marshall and his team at Brookings-Harbor School District for their thoughtful approach to the first positive COVID-19 in a school this fall. Superintendent Marshall has volunteered to share some learnings with others at our next superintendent’s meeting.

The following resources, updates and clarifications are presented here to meet both local and state needs as our shared work and challenges continue to evolve. They include:

  1. A required weekly report for COVID-19 school status updates.
  2. A change to September metrics for schools considering opening to in-person instruction.
  3. Explanation for understanding when to pause for schools that opened under the exceptions to the metrics.
  4. Timing of decisions for meeting reopening metrics or exceptions for in-person instruction.
  5. CDL resources for more secure and successful virtual meetings

1. A required weekly report for COVID-19 school status updates

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is implementing a new weekly report to better understand every school’s COVID-19 School Status. We recognize schools are under tremendous pressure right now and you need to prioritize your time. However, the state needs additional data to provide better service and to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on school communities so we can take more steps to safely open to in-person instruction. We are limiting the information request to the greatest degree possible and making submission as simple as possible. This report will continue until all students have returned to in-person instruction. 

We are requesting that each district, private school system, or public or private school designate an individual who will be responsible for completing this simple report each week. To avoid duplication of response data, please coordinate responses at the district or private school system level wherever possible and remain consistent throughout the response period.  

This weekly report is required for all public and private schools in Oregon. Your district or school should have received notification of this report on September 23, 2020.

There are a number of reasons for this request: 

  • Our partners at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) are preparing to implement fairly extensive testing related to the first cases associated with schools. The OHA has lined up resources for this enhanced surveillance. In order to be ready OHA needs to know where to place these resources geographically ahead of a confirmed case in a school. There is still little data worldwide about the spread of COVID-19 in school settings. This enhanced surveillance effort will help us understand how to respond to COVID-19 cases in schools and help us maintain in-person instruction.  
  • The federal government has also committed to provide COVID-19 tests to schools across the country. When Oregon receives these tests, we will work with our public health partners to determine the best way to distribute this resource. Knowing each school’s status will be important. 
  • We continue to seek opportunities for other resources like PPE, cloth face coverings, etc. Again, understanding each school’s current status can help with distributing resources where they are needed. 
  • This information may help with eventual vaccine distribution and dissemination. As we understand, a pediatric vaccine is not likely in the coming months.
  • State leaders need to understand how schools are operating in different parts of the state and how to replicate successful implementation models.  

Thank you for cooperating and submitting this short COVID-19 School Status Update report by 5 p.m. on Friday, September 25.  

2. A change to September metrics for schools considering opening to in-person instruction

The Test Positivity metric at the state and county level will be suspended for the weeks of September 6, 13, 20, and 27. This decision was made as a response to the impact of wildfires on testing and the Test Positivity metric. OHA will continue to report Test Positivity and it will continue to be available from the “Latest Metrics form OHA” link on the ODE Ready Schools, Safe Learners webpage. Willamette ESD will make adjustment to their metrics dashboard to account for this change in September and the link to the “WESD School Metrics Dashboard” is also available on the ODE Ready Schools, Safe Learners webpage. The WESD Dashboard is delayed in release but will reflect these changes once published.

This means that schools will rely only on the case rates and case counts. As case rates appear to be on the rise again in Oregon, it is vitally important that you review the case rate and case count trend in your county prior to making any decisions to return to in-person instruction. It is also important to be in close contact with your local public health authority and seek their consultation into any decisions to open to in-person instruction.

3. Explanation for understanding when to pause for schools that opened under the exceptions to the metrics

For schools that have opened under any one of the exceptions to the public health metrics for reopening schools for in person K-12 instruction, including the K-3 exception, they should consider the spread of COVID-19 within schools and the broader community in deciding to temporarily return to Comprehensive Distance Learning. If there are cases in two or more cohorts without an identified common exposure, school officials should discuss with local public health officials to determine if this represents unexplained spread within the school or broader community. It is encouraged that the school follow recommendations from their local public health authority on whether a temporary move to Comprehensive Distance Learning (for two weeks or longer) is recommended to protect the health and safety of the students, staff and families.

4. Timing of decisions for meeting reopening metrics or exceptions for in-person instruction

The public health metrics require a trend over time (three weeks) be met before returning to in-person instruction. Data are examined and posted each week (typically on Monday afternoons) based on the previous week, Sunday through Saturday. Data are provisional and subject to change as additional test results are received and public health investigations proceed. Schools that are following the data to determine whether reopening is allowed under the metric or exceptions would need to meet the data on rates and percent positivity for the three weeks prior to starting in-person instruction. If cases are trending down slowly, it is recommended that schools choose a reopening date later in the week in order to determine if cases remain below the threshold and to minimize the need to potentially have to delay the date for restarting in-person instruction which is disruptive to students, staff and their families. 

As additional cases are reported, and investigations are conducted, data from previous weeks may change when metrics are updated each week. If the public health metrics are met in the data posted for the week prior to the chosen start date for in-person instruction, the school may proceed with the plan to open to in-person instruction. If prior weeks’ data have risen to slightly above the stated metrics, the school may decide to open for in-person instruction based discussions with local public health. 

5. CDL resources for more secure and successful virtual meetings

Using live video conference tools for meetings, trainings, classes, and more is a critical aspect of delivering Comprehensive Distance Learning. We have located some resources to help use these tools safely to better protect and serve all participants. Each platform, including Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, and BlueJeans, have their own settings and options that users should be aware of to create a more secure meeting space for students, families, educators, and school boards. Below are some resources that organizers and presenters can use to help ensure the platform they are using is safe for all participants.

Support and Security Information from the Platforms

Again, thank you for your service. Please do not hesitate to reach out to with any questions.