On July 1, the Oregon Department of Education released its first revision of the “Ready Schools, Safe Learners ” guidance – updating the requirements for schools and districts as they make plans for resumed in-person instruction this fall. The bulk of the guidance has not changed between ODE’s first draft of the guidance and the version released today, but I still wanted to take a moment to highlight some key points for districts set out in today’s version:
- Maintains the requirement that all staff who are regularly within 6 feet of students or other staff, bus drivers, and staff preparing or serving meals all wear face coverings or face shields – this requirement is not extended to students;
- Reiterates the requirement that schools establish a minimum of 35 square feet of usable classroom space per person when determining room capacity;
- Restricts the presence of non-essential visitors in schools and requires that visitors wear face coverings in accordance with OHA and CDC guidelines;
- Fails to mandate that district leaders collaborate with educators to develop the reopening plans even though it is educators who will implement the plans; several districts have already moved forward with plans without educator input.
We believe it is essential that school districts include educators in the development of their reopening plans, and we continue to assert that the reopening of schools will constitute a change in working conditions – and that educators have a legal right to bargain with school districts over those working conditions.
Yesterday’s guidance also continues to fall short of providing clear guidance for school districts on how they should make accommodations for educators who fall into high risk categories for COVID or who live with individuals who fall into high risk categories. We will continue to urge districts to make plans that allow these educators to continue their work without experiencing undue health risks. We will also continue to look for solutions for educators who have childcare needs of their own that will be asked to balance their work and their families.
ODE also released the Comprehensive Distance Learning guidance for schools who choose to move to a fully online instructional model in 2020-21. This guidance includes more robust requirements for instruction than this spring’s “Distance Learning for All” plans.
We anticipate that ODE will release additional revisions to their “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance and will continue to update you as we receive new information. We will also continue to urge Oregon’s elected leaders to ensure that school districts have the resources they will need to adequately prepare for fall instruction, whether that instruction is in-person or distance learning.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Recent federal legislation may provide you with emergency paid leave for certain reasons related to the current COVID-19 crisis. Click below to access clear guidance around the different types of leave available under FFCRA, and who might be eligible to utilize each program. This document has been prepared for OEA members by OEA's Legal Counsel.
Distance Learning Legal Guidance
OEA's Legal Counsel has prepared a memo outlining best practices around how students should be contacted, under what circumstances, and what to do in the event a student shares information that is of concern. Click here to read the memo.
- Best practice is to contact students using pre-existing district communication methods – school-provided email addresses, web sites, etc.
- It is best to not to use text messaging, Twitter or Face Time for distance learning purposes.
- Refrain from one-on-one phone calls, if possible. If you do engage in one-on-one phone conversations, write contemporaneous notes of the call, and save the notes in a secure place. Maintain the confidentiality of the notes.
- If districts expect direct communication via private email addresses or text messaging, be sure you copy parents/guardians on all communications or consider group messaging to all students at the same time.
- Be sure your communication is related to schoolwork and is not overly personal. If you feel the need to inquire about a student’s health or well-being, be sure you ask all students the same questions.
- It is advisable to not record and post a Zoom meeting (or other video-platform meetings) on your web presence for students who may have missed it. FERPA, confidentiality, public-records issues, and other considerations come into play. If you do record virtual meetings, consult with your administration about best practices for addressing these issues.
CAUTION – A participant in a Zoom meeting, and in some other distance-learning platforms, can record the meeting without others being aware.
ADVICE – If you learn that a student recorded a virtual meeting without your permission, immediately alert your administrator in writing, and notify your Association if the issue is not resolved or becomes an ongoing problem.
Ethical Guidance from TSPC
Even for the most tech savvy educator, providing quality, equitable instruction to all students will be a challenge in this new Distance Learning model. Distance learning requires careful consideration of the ethical principles we maintain as professionals. New dilemmas may require us to consider unique strategies to meet our students’ needs within these principles. The usual educator ethical and competent standards apply to Oregon educators on a virtual platform. Maintaining those professional standards on screen or in digital communications is critical.
TSPC has prepared guidance on ethical standards of quality teaching in this new environment. Read the guidance in full here.
Read TSPC's agency response to the COVID-19 school closure here.