Managing hMPXV in schools: Maximizing the tools we have

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To: Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, Private School Leaders, Special Education Teachers and Service Providers, Principals, School Nurses, Communicable Disease Preparedness Liaisons, K-12 Public Information Officers 
From: Kati Moseley, Resiliency Manager 
Date: October 6th, 2022 
Subject: Managing hMPXV in schools: Maximizing the tools we have 

Dear Partners,

With OHA’s announcement of pediatric hMPXV (monkeypox) cases in Oregon, school community members may be asking questions about how schools will manage this illness.   

School leaders have a responsibility and an opportunity to educate their school community about hMPXV (monkeypox). This message provides information all school leaders should know and understand, including: 

  1. The low risk of transmission in school settings. 
  2. Tools available to support shared awareness and understanding, primarily Oregon Health Authority’s hMPXV website which is regularly updated and includes evidence-based information about this illness, and coming soon, hMPXV guidance for schools. 
  3. How to prevent, address and hold space for the healing of harm due to stigma, harassment and stereotyping that may accompany discourse about this illness.  
  4. The responsibility of schools to ensure access to education for students who must stay at home while ill, providing the student is well enough to engage in learning. (OAR 581-021-0081) 

Low Risk of Transmission in Schools 

The risk of hMPXV to children and adolescents is low and transmission of hMPXV in schools is rare. At this time, schools and childcare programs should continue to follow their regular operational guidance for preventing the spread of communicable disease.  

Tools Available 

  • Oregon Health Authority’s hMPXV website, which is regularly updated and includes evidence-based information about this illness. 
  • Centering belonging, care, connection and community: It is our responsibility to ensure every school environment is safe and welcoming to every student and staff member.   
  • Comprehensive Health Education: Health educators and schools can leverage the existing Health Education Standards and Performance Indicators to help students prevent transmission, make sense out of public discourse and health messaging, and gain healthy relationship skills.  
  • Communicable disease management plans: School district communicable disease management plans are district developed road maps for responding to cases of communicable disease. 
  • School-based licensed health professionals: School nurses and other licensed school health professionals are uniquely positioned to share accurate information about communicable disease prevention, and to help ensure school communities are supportive of all students. 

Prevent, Address and Hold Space for Healing: Stigma, Harassment and Stereotyping 

Schools have a responsibility to know and act from evidence-based information about this illness, including the disproportionate social, emotional and mental impact that the public discourse can have on specific student populations or on staff. Any youth or adult with a skin condition may experience teasing, harassment or stigma; schools are responsible to proactively prevent this and to address instances when they happen. 

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recognizes that student health and safety are the cornerstone of education and that all students are entitled to a high-quality educational experience, free from discrimination or harassment based on perceived race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin, and without fear or hatred, racism or violence. All school staff and leaders are also entitled to work in environments that are free from discrimination or harassment, and visitors should be able to participate in school activities without fear for their safety.  

Building a culture that uplifts all learners begins with building care, connection, and community into the heart of how schools teach, serve and support students and staff. Care, connection, and a sense of community are essential for ensuring healthy, welcoming school communities where students can learn, and staff can teach and nurture students.   

Responding to Bias in Schools 

Discrimination and harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, gender identity, gender expression, language, sexual orientation, national origin, age, marital status, religion, familial status, source of income, or disability is prohibited by State and Federal Law. This remains true for experiences of discrimination or harassment related to hMPXV. In order to provide environments free from discrimination, districts and schools must address all instances of identity-based bias and stigma that arise in relation to hMPXV. Schools and districts are required to interrupt all instances of bias-based harassment and should use affirming language when repairing any harm caused in order to support all involved. It is important for school leaders to ensure that district employees, students, and families are aware of their rights and protections, as well as ensure that the district’s complaint procedure is available at the main district office and as a link on the district homepage. School community members who cannot learn about their district’s procedure these ways may contact the ODE appeals team at for help locating their local complaint process. In addition, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights complaint process is available to anyone who wishes to file a complaint.   

Continuity of Education

Schools should consider adopting flexible leave and absence policies for staff and students who need to isolate. Students who contract hMPXV may need to miss as much as four weeks of school. Maintaining rigorous expectations and support to accelerate learning for all students is part of providing an equitable education. Education system decision makers should make every attempt to ensure that students who may miss periods of school due to any illness, including a prolonged absence due to hMPXV, be included in every possible educational and school opportunity (advanced courses; supportive services, such as support for emergent multilingual students and/or special education; extra-curricular activities, etc.) during the period of absence during which they are well enough to participate remotely, and that the appropriate team fully considers any impact that hMPXV had on the student’s attendance and academic performance. In the case of students served through IEPs or Section 504 Plans who miss school due to contracting hMPXV, the appropriate team should consider whether and what changes to the student's plan are required in light of the student's absences. 

During an absence and after, schools should also offer equitable access to community, academic, and social/emotional resources. Resources must be culturally and linguistically responsive and support mental/behavioral health and physical well-being. 

Thank you for your continued work and commitment to students, staff and families this school year. Please direct questions and comments to Ely Sanders, School Health Specialist,