Care and Connection in Action | September 2021 Education Update

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Education Update: Oregon Department of Education

September 2021

Oregon Achieves... Together!
A Message from the Director of the Oregon Department of Education Colt Gill

ODE Director Colt Gill

Earlier this month, in a press conference with Governor Kate Brown and public health leaders, I mentioned how this is the third school year to be impacted by COVID-19. That is a long time to be dealing with the stress and fears that come with a worldwide pandemic. The need to make sure we were dealing with these feelings led to us launching Care and Connection Week, a time for districts to focus on the mental health and well-being of students, educators and school staff.

It’s been heartwarming to see so many stories in the media about districts doing just that. I’m sharing some of those stories below and I know for every story that gets written, there are dozens of instances that don’t get the coverage they deserve. 

The Outlook:  Mental health takes center stage for 2021-2022 school year

KATU: Oregon educators put mental health first for upcoming school year

KOIN: Oregon schools to launch ‘Care and Connection Week’

KGW: Oregon campaign promotes 'care and connection' as kids head back to school

So thank you all for taking the time to focus on the return to in-person education for the start of this year and making sure our schools are safe, welcoming environments for students, staff and the communities they serve. Continue to take advantage of the Care and Connection resources we have available on our website.

Oregon State Board of Education Passes Resolution Encouraging Solidarity and Support for Student Identities

State Board of Education logo

On Thursday, September 16, the Oregon State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution calling on Oregon’s school districts to foster the creation of safe space for students.

The Resolution Encouraging Solidarity and Support for Student Identities​ specifically calls on the Newberg School Board to encourage district staff to celebrate and stand in solidarity with students through the use of signs, flags, placards and symbols, and affirm in words, policy and action that Every Student Belongs and is welcome, appreciated and ensured an equitable access to a high quality education in Newberg Public Schools.

“Equity does not mean that one side gets ignored or favored. It is quite the opposite: we have a responsibility to create and maintain humane, livable spaces for children who have consistently lived on the brink of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion,” said Guadalupe Martinez-Zapata, Vice-Chair of the Oregon State Board of Education. “A minimal demonstration of that humanity, a flag, a banner, a sign, is all it could take for a student to feel safe. Each student is unique, and every one deserves our love and care.”

More about the resolution...

Health And Safety Tips To Maximize In-person Learning

Five Tips

This fall, students, staff and families share a homework lesson: doing what’s needed in our communities to keep schools open and thriving. 

To promote simple ways for students, staff, parents and families to join the collective effort to reduce spread of the highly-transmissible Delta variant, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) offer five health and safety tips for students and families:

  1. Make a plan to vaccinate all eligible household members. As school starts, help protect your child and their classmates, including those too young to get vaccinated, by making sure to vaccinate all eligible household members.
  2. Wear face coverings or masks in public and in carpools. Face coverings are effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 and can reduce the need to be quarantined and miss in-person learning.
  3. Limit gatherings with other households for now — including big events for kids, like birthday parties. If your kids have an early fall birthday, celebrate with just your household. You might consider postponing larger celebrations until the Delta variant’s rapid spread has subsided (plan a half-birthday bash!).
  4. Move social activities outdoors. To help minimize kids’ exposure to COVID-19, try to plan outdoor activities when possible — especially when with other households.
  5. Make a plan in case your child needs to miss school. Being prepared can make this difficult time easier and will help your child transition to and from the classroom.  

Please use the links below to help spread the word about the 5 Tips! 

Use this helpful infographic

Spread the word on social media

Send a 1-page resource

Translated versions available on the OHA website under the Schools tab.

Reminder: Schools can register to test students and staff for COVID-19

Oregon Health Authority

Students returning to Oregon’s classrooms this fall may have ready access to COVID-19 testing, but schools wishing to participate must register for the programs now for the 2021-22 school year. This applies even if they participated last school year.

Robust testing programs offered through the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), are among numerous interventions aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in schools, including universal use of face coverings, physical distancing and ventilation.

Opt-in programs include:

  • Diagnostic testing: For students or staff with symptoms of COVID-19 or an exposure to COVID-19, the program uses Abbott BinaxNOW rapid testing kits. This essential access to free testing can help diagnose COVID-19 infection early and, when recommended by the local public health authority, may shorten the duration of quarantine for exposed students.
  • Weekly screening testing for unvaccinated K-12 staff: Staff may opt in to this program. These tests are self-collected at home and sent to a regional laboratory for processing. Testing is confidential and enrollment forms can be found online.
  • Weekly screening testing of unvaccinated students: Schools must opt in to the program. Then, households may opt in through their schools for testing performed in collaboration with a regional laboratory partner. Program details vary by region and school.

More about the testing program...

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 and ends on October 15 to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success. It first started as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson because September 15 is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.

More about National Hispanic Heritage month including resources for educators...

National Report Highlights ODE’s ESSER Work

CLASP report

Oregon is featured in the Center for Law and Social Policy’s (CLASP) report looking at promoting transformation and healing in school re-opening. Oregon is highlighted in the section on Prioritizing Culturally Responsive Care. It notes that “Oregon’s funding of summer learning programs that explicitly prioritize mental health and wellbeing underscores the state’s commitment to year-round mental health care.”

Twitter logo

Be sure to check out our Twitter page and follow us to stay up-to-date on everything that's happening in education in Oregon!

Please Welcome Deb Lange and Tenneal Wetherell

ODE has two new assistant superintendents. Deb Lange is the new Assistant Superintendent for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Tenneal Wetherell is the new Assistant Superintendent of the Office of Enhancing Student Opportunities.

Read more about Deb and Tenneal...

Teaching with Purpose Conference

The 12th Annual Teaching With Purpose Conference is coming up on October 8th from 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. This year’s event also marks 20 years since the first ever Teaching With Purpose Conference. The theme is “When Will We Learn: It’s Not Their Heads, It’s their (Broken) Hearts.”

More about the conference and registration...

Educator Advancement Council Update

Here’s the latest from the EAC:

Welcoming a New Executive Director: Earlier this month, the staff of the Educator Advancement Council was pleased to welcome our new Executive Director, Dr. Kimberly Matier. Read more about Dr. Matier here.

More from the EAC...

Educational Policy Leadership Opportunity

The National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is seeking board members for terms beginning in 2022. The positions include: parent leader, 4th grade teacher, 8th grade teacher and high school principal. Nominations are open until November 1. Go to the National Assessment Governing Board web page for more information.

ODE In the News

The Oregonian interviewed ODE Sexual Health Specialist Sasha Grenier for their story on the state’s new law offering free menstrual products in Oregon schools.

The Lake County Examiner highlighted the use of Summer Learning funds to expand use of the community swimming pool.

Ed Week featured ODE’s SEED Survey in its Big Ideas column that looks at the biggest challenges in education.