Five Points of Clarification and Restatement on RSSL 5.5.0

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

Date:    January 22, 2021
To:        Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, Private Schools, Business Managers,
             and ESD Reopening Advisors                   
From:   Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education
RE:       Five points of clarification and restatement on RSSL 5.5.0 (January 19 update)


ODE released updated guidance on January 19 of this week. This included version 5.5.0 of Ready Schools, Safe Learners (RSSL).

As this update has been communicated and is getting digested by each of you and in your communities, we’ve noted five points that could use immediate clarification or restatement. These do not reflect any actual changes in the document but just another avenue to help resolve any confusion or misunderstanding.

  1. The metrics in the 0 section of the guidance are advisory. This means the decision about whether to operate in-person through an On-Site or Hybrid Instructional Model is a local one. The metrics reflect what the State of Oregon advises are the appropriate conditions for opening to in-person instruction. If a decision is made to operate in-person in ways that are not in alignment with the advisory metrics there are additional requirements that are further re-stated below.

  2. The health and safety protocols and totality of RSSL guidance, and related supplemental guidance, are required wherever it is stated that they are requirements. The authority of the guidance is outlined in the top of the RSSL document and stems from Executive Order 20-29. While ODE took care to further explain the difference between a requirement and a recommendation within the full body of guidance, it is imperative that it be clear that the requirements are mandatory. Please interrupt any confusion about this as leaders who are responsible for implementing this work.

  3. Schools that choose to operate in-person through an On-Site or Hybrid Instructional Model in a county not meeting the metrics must offer the new school testing program by March 1st or the time that decision would come into effect (if after March 1st). This program offers an additional risk-mitigation strategy that is relatively low-burden, once fully understood, and can help offset impacts of operating when community spread is higher even if school transmission is low/absent and RSSL protocols are firmly in place. This provision applies anytime a school is operating in an Instructional Model that is not aligned with the county metrics case data. This is true whether your school began operating in August/September, or took a pause, or opened on January 4th, or is just opening for the first time. 

  4. Offering Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) is an essential part of responding to COVID-19 and meeting the educational needs of students and families. Interpretations of the guidance, or communication about the guidance that may have left some question that CDL could stop being offered for any students being served remotely, are misunderstandings. There was not a substantial change in requirements for offering CDL in this update. CDL must be offered to students in quarantine. CDL must be offered to high-risk students, who choose to stay home. CDL must be offered to students and families who choose to remain off-site for any reason, even if the school is moving On-Site or offering a Hybrid Model out of alignment with the county metrics case data. 

  5. There are two important operational clarifications regarding offering the onsite COVID-19 testing program with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA):
  • The requirement to offer access to testing for “those with known exposures to individuals with COVID-19’’ is specific to a potential case or outbreak on school grounds. Students or staff should not and won’t be directed to come back to buildings once quarantined at home to be offered this test.
  • Access to testing needs to be offered on-site at each school. Staff who work across schools may administer the testing program; however, exposed/symptomatic students and staff should not travel between schools for a test. For example, staff administering the program across multiple schools could be assigned to schools within very close distance (within 5 minutes) and could travel to offer the test.

We recognize the volume of information just released. We also empathize with the constant change leaders and educators and the community have been asked to respond to for the last 10 months. Our efforts to respond to COVID-19 will continue to evolve. Please continue to watch for further evolution to on-site testing strategies and requirements, as this may be a central strategy nationally for returning to in-person instruction. We value your partnership and shared effort.

The Ready Schools web page has also been refreshed and contains essential and helpful information, including translations of the “Update on Returning to In-Person Instruction” for families.