Governor Brown: All public schools will operate in-person instruction through either a fully on-site or a hybrid instructional model

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

Date:    March 5, 2021
To:        Superintendents, Principals, Charter School Leaders and Private School Leaders 
From:   Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education
RE:       Governor Brown: All public schools will operate in-person instruction through either
              a fully on-site or a hybrid instructional model 

Today Governor Brown will announce that she is taking executive action to ensure all public schools provide universal access to in-person instruction for K-5 students on or before the week of March 29, 2021 and students grades 6-12 on or before the week of April 19, 2021. Governor Brown will issue an executive order related to this expectation in the coming days.

This week 31 counties meet the advisory metrics for operating K-12 on-site or hybrid and four more meet the metrics for operating elementary on-site or hybrid. As of last week, more than 160,000 students received in-person instruction of some kind.

I know most of you are operating on-site or hybrid or have plans to do so in the coming weeks. I cannot fully express my gratitude and awe for the leadership you have demonstrated throughout the pandemic and especially in this time of transition. I know that you have worked through professional and personal strife, loss, and tears. Oregon’s kids, families, and educators are blessed to have you guiding the way. With your leadership, we can do this!

More Updates Pending

The Governor has directed OHA and ODE to issue guidance to conform with these directives. She has also directed the agencies to review existing requirements and issue subsequent guidance, as necessary, to public and private schools. Because there is more research today than even a few months ago, this review of requirements will explore areas that can better facilitate the return of in-person instruction while also reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19. OHA and ODE must also review Oregon’s advisory metrics for schools, and revise those metrics to make clear that hybrid or in-person instruction is the primary instructional model for school districts, unless extreme rates of community transmission of COVID-19 make comprehensive distance learning necessary.

Beginning next week the team at ODE and I will be reaching out to share more about the guidance updates and the Governor’s executive order and seek your input on aspects of the efforts to return to On-Site or Hybrid instructional models. I look forward to collaborating with you on this effort to expand services for our students.

With a Governor who has taken significant steps to vaccinate the educator work force and with multiple layers of protection to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in place, including:

  • Entry Screening
  • Physical Distancing
  • Face Coverings
  • Cohorting
  • Hand Hygiene
  • Environmental Cleaning and Disinfecting
  • Airflow and Ventilation
  • Isolation and Quarantining
  • Outdoor learning protocols
  • On-site COVID-19 Testing
  • Educator Vaccinations

We have the tools, the knowledge, and the right leaders… and we know how to pivot when conditions change, we can do this! ODE stands ready to partner with you in this effort. Our team has had you and our students in our hearts from the beginning. The team has put in countless hours developing tools, advocating for resources, answering questions, and counseling leaders, educators, families, and students. Please don’t hesitate to reach-out,, we are with you.

Governor Brown is strident in this call. She is striving to provide the tools you need to succeed. She has heard moving stories from you and from families, she knows that together we can meet the needs of our students. Today she shared, “Whether or not public schools should return to the classroom this year is no longer up for discussion: the science and data is clear, schools can return to in-person instruction with a very low risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly with a vaccinated workforce. As conditions across the state merit a return to in-person instruction, I could not be more relieved that we have reached a point in this pandemic when Oregon’s children can finally relinquish some of the immense burdens they have so bravely borne over this past year. I feel so much hope for Oregon’s kids, their parents and their schools, as we continue to navigate this pandemic. My gratitude goes out to OHA and ODE and every district, administrator, teacher, staff member, and parent for their work this past year. Our kids are our future and we need to do everything we can to make up for the losses of 2020.”

Those districts and schools that have come back into session know three things well:

  1. While there will be anxiety, the kids are excited and happy to be back. You can make it special for them. Things are different with face coverings and physical distancing, but our educators can overcome those challenges, greet our children by name and with air-hugs, and make our schools vibrant, welcoming, loving places for children to learn.
  2. Some students have experienced trauma over the last year and we can help. Be ready to support them. Counselors, mental health specialists, child development specialists, social workers, and other professionals will play a critical role in our return. But, just as important are building on the powerful relationships between educators and students. We will learn their needs and take action to support each of them. Use the tools we have provided:
  3. New routines don’t come easy; take time to learn, train, and prepare for in-person operation. The health and safety protocols limit transmission and keep everyone safer. They also make school more stable. There are challenging new routines to learn. Take a couple of days without instruction to train all staff and give them time to own the new strategies. The more you prepare and the more you share why the protocols are important, the safer and more stable your school will be. Again, use the tools we have provided:

We can do this!

Looking Beyond the 2020-21 School Year

Our primary focus at this time is meeting the needs of our students for the remainder of this school year. However, we are also looking ahead:

  • We are currently working on graduation ceremony and pathways guidance and hope to have these to you prior to spring break.
  • We are also working with partners on summer learning guidance and resources and we hope to have it available to you in the coming weeks.
  • Finally, we also know many of you are trying to plan for the coming year. As COVID-19 and our mitigation efforts evolve from week-to-week, we will not have 2021-22 guidance for some time. However, we can share with you the variables we are monitoring as we prepare that guidance. This should help you with your planning as well.

Please continue to use the ODE COVID-19 inbox for additional questions. Thank you!