COVID-19 Metrics for Returning to In-Person Instruction No Longer Mandatory
Oregon will no longer enforce Oregon’s public health metrics for safely returning to in-person instruction after Jan. 1. The current restrictions on reopening schools will become ‘advisory,’ and the governor has expressed a hope that schools statewide will offer in-person instruction by February. Certain health and safety standards, including wearing masks, maintaining distance and responding to a COVID-19 outbreak in a school, will remain mandatory.
In a letter to Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Director Colt Gill on December 23, the governor called for the following actions:
- Local school boards, superintendents and school employees work together for the resumption of in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible, making decisions based on science, public health and safety.
- The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will partner with schools to access on-site rapid testing, with priority given to elementary students and staff in areas highly impacted by COVID-19
- Oregon’s Health and Safety Metrics for Returning to In-Person Instruction will become advisory rather than mandatory. Decisions to resume in-person instruction will be made district-by-district and school-by-school.
- OHA and ODE will evaluate the metrics for reopening and update the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance document by January 19.
- ODE will collaborate with OHA to align the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance document with Oregon OSHA rules to ensure maximum access to in-person instruction in keeping with reasonable health and safety standards.
While many classified staff have been working on-site throughout the pandemic, this new policy will create more confusion for staff and families as individual districts determine whether and when to reopen. It will also create more conflict at the bargaining table for OSEA chapters.
If you have questions about what is happening in your district, contact your chapter president and OSEA field representative.
Governor Brown’s full letter is included in this press release from ODE. The specific actions are outlined on page 3 of the governor’s letter.