OEA Members and Coronavirus FAQs

What is OEA doing to support educators and students during school closures?

OEA leadership and staff are working tirelessly to advocate for both educators and students during this time of uncertainty. That includes being in regular communication with the Governor’s office, the Oregon Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor and Industries to both receive new information from state leaders that we can share with you, and pushing those leaders for clearer guidance aimed at protecting students and educators.

Additionally, our leadership, our staff, and our legal team are working to push districts to make every educator fully whole during the school closures. While we will continue to work at the district-level to try and secure agreements for all public education employees to receive pay during the shutdown, we will also continue to urge the Governor’s office to issue statewide guidance instructing districts to do so.

How can I help my community during this time?

Our state and our nation are facing an unprecedented challenge. As our elected officials make the difficult decisions about temporarily shutting down public life, we must find ways to work together and offer our support to keep our community healthy and safe. OEA will be coordinating with school districts and with state agencies about ways we can help others. This includes volunteering to distribute meals to students and providing childcare to medical professionals who are working on the frontlines of keeping our community safe during this pandemic.

If you are interested in helping, please fill out this form to let us know. If there is an opportunity for you to serve your community, we will follow up with you with additional details.

I’m also asking you to please share information about your school’s meal service programs with your community, either over social media or over the phone. Many of our students depend on the nutritional services provided by our public schools and ensuring as many families in your local community know how to access those services as possible is critical during this time.

If you are at high-risk from coronavirus, or live with someone else who is at high-risk, please do not volunteer. The CDC has said high-risk individuals include: older individuals (60+); individuals who are immune-compromised; and individuals with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or other conditions. The CDC does not have evidence that indicates pregnant individuals are at higher risk for contracting coronavirus, but out of an abundance of caution we ask that if you are pregnant or live with someone who is pregnant, that you refrain from volunteering.

How will school employees be treated during the closures?

New guidance released by Governor Kate Brown on the evening of March 17th, 2020, made clear that all Oregon school districts would receive allocations from the State Schools Fund as if the closure period had not occurred – and directed all Oregon public schools to pay all employees during the closure.

It is not clear what this guidance means for substitutes, but are working with the governor’s office to receive additional clarification and are advocating that long-term substitutes also be kept financially whole during the prolonged closure of Oregon’s schools.

We are advocating to keep our community college staff safe and financially whole. So far, our higher education institutions have not been closed as many of them work to switch over to online and virtual programs.

Can I be forced to return to work during the school closures?

The short answer is yes.

In order to continue receiving funding from the State School Fund, districts must meet four mandates handed down by Governor Kate Brown. Those mandates include:

  • Providing supplementary education to students.
  • Nutritional services for students must be maintained.
  • Childcare must be provided for emergency personnel and first responders.
  • All district employees must continue to be paid.

School districts have been given the authority to call employees back to work in order to fulfill these mandates and continue to receive state funding.

On March 24th, ODE instructed superintendents that to the greatest extent possible, they must facilitate telework and work-from-home for employees, and that work in buildings is prohibited whenever a telework or work-from-home option is available.

Guidance released by Governor Kate Brown on the evening of March 17th, 2020, directed school districts not to call employees who fall into a high-risk category, or who live with someone in a high-risk category, back to work. OEA is seeking additional guidance on how employees should handle disclosing relevant health information to their school districts.

If you are being pressured to return to work and fall into any high-risk category or live with someone who falls into a high-risk category, please immediately reach out to your local OEA staff member.

How will districts operate during the school closure?

On March 29, 2020, OEA released joint guidelines for how K-12 school districts should operate during the closure period. These guidelines were jointly written with the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA), the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA), the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA), and the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts (OAESD) – and were endorsed by the Oregon Department of Education and the Office of Governor Kate Brown.

You can read the joint guidance HERE.

How long will school closures last?

New guidance released by Governor Kate Brown on the evening of March 17th, 2020, extended the closure of Oregon’s K-12 public schools until April 28, 2020.

That guidance also directed K-12 districts to put systems in place that would maintain nutritional services for students and to continue mental health services for children and their families.

All K-12 districts have been instructed to pay their employees during the closures.

What about community colleges and public universities?

Governor Kate Brown released guidance for Oregon’s colleges and universities on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. That guidance ordered all colleges and universities to end in-person instruction and limit the number of people on campus to essential personnel.

We understand the uncertainty this guidance causes for many staff, faculty, and students at Oregon’s institutions of higher education.

We are advocating to keep our community college staff safe and financially whole, and are fighting for guidance on how institutions should treat students who depend on on-campus work for their income. We are urging elected leaders to enact emergency funding and healthcare for part-time faculty and hourly staff at Oregon’s community colleges, and to develop emergency unemployment support community college employees who will suffer financial losses due to class cancelations.

We are also urging state leaders to allocate emergency funding for community colleges themselves to protect against program cuts or institutional closures as a result of course cancellations in the wake of the COVID outbreak.

Is Oregon going to call a special session to pass any COVID-related legislation?

There are ongoing talks about the need to have a special session to help Oregonians facing this crisis. What will be included in that package has not been determined at this time. The Governor has been using her broad executive authority and we will continue to fight to say that our members should be kept as safe as possible and that they should be kept whole throughout closures.

The Oregon Legislature has formed the Joint Legislative Committee on COVID-19. They are convening this Wednesday to discuss the need for unemployment support and making sure our most vulnerable are protected as there are broad work closures in all sectors. We expect that there will be a short session convened once there is agreement on a path forward.

Has the federal government passed its COVID-relief bill? Will it help me?

The federal government is working on passing several large spending bills aimed at providing relief for individuals and businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The second of those bills, called “Phase Two,” was signed into law on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 by President Trump. That bill includes:

  • $500 million in additional funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program
  • $400 million in additional funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program
  • $82 million in additional funding for the Defense Health Program
  • $250 million in additional funding for food programs, including home delivery food programs, for the elderly and disabled
  • Waivers to some requirements for school lunch programs
  • Waivers to work requirements to be eligible for SNAP food programs
  • New, temporary requirements that employers with more than 20 employees offer some paid sick leave time to their employees
  • Extensions to, and additional funds for, unemployment benefits

Free COVID-19 testing without co-pays or deductibles

The third coronavirus bill, called “Phase Three,” is currently being voted on in Congress. While the bill is expected to pass both chambers by Thursday, March 26th, 2020, it is possible the bill could stall or that changes might be made during final voting and negotiations.

As it is currently written, the bill provides the following spending allotments. Once we are able to review the final bill, we will share information for members on how they can take advantage of some of the programs included in the Phase Three spending package.

The package is expected spend $2 trillion, including:

  • Extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits
  • $1,200 in direct payments that would apply equally to workers with incomes up to $75,000 per year before phasing out and ending altogether for those earning more than $99,000. Families would receive an additional $500 per child.
  • $130 billion for hospitals
  • $150 billion for state and local governments
  • $500 billion fund — $425 billion for the Federal Reserve to leverage for loans in order to help broad groups of distressed companies and $75 billion for industry-specific loans — will now have far stricter oversight, in the form of an inspector general and a 5-person panel appointed by Congress and companies that accept money must also agree to halt any stock buybacks for the length of the government assistance, plus an additional year.
  • A provision that will block Trump family businesses — or those of other senior government officials — from receiving loan money under the programs
  • $350 billion that would establish lending programs for small businesses, but only for those who keep their payrolls steady through the crisis. Small businesses that pledge to keep their workers would also receive cash-flow assistance structured as federally guaranteed loans. If the employer continued to pay its workers for the duration of the crisis, those loans would be forgiven.

Are educators expected to move their curriculum online?

Guidance issued from the Oregon Department of Education was clear that school districts are not expected to transition to online learning as schools close for health and safety reasons.

However, ODE has not instructed districts that they cannot transition to an online curriculum. They have simply provided criteria that districts must meet should they choose to move online. Those criteria include:

  1. 1. All students in the school or district have full access to the learning, the educators, and required materials (including technology).
  2. The online learning system effectively supports the district’s different learning and teaching needs, including the ability to provide differentiated instruction as well as one-on-one support for students who need it.
  3. The online instructional materials are aligned to Oregon State Standards.
  4. Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) identified on a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or required supports for a 504 plan must be provided if the district is operating school online.
  5. Support and instruction for emerging bilingual/English Learners must be provided if the district is operating school online.
  6. Supports for talented and gifted students must be provided if the district is operating school online.
  7. If the district is operating school online, it must ensure equal student access to the instruction and assessments associated with dual credit courses.
  8. If the district is operating school online, it must provide training to staff, students, and parents and guardians on how the online system works and the expectations of the district.
  9. If the district is operating school online, attendance must be tracked and reported for both students and staff.
  10. If the district is operating school online, online systems must be secure and not allow for the release of protected student or staff information.
  11. Students must access to school meals if the district is operating school online.
  12. Students must have access to school counseling services if the district is operating school online.

What’s the latest guidance from ODE?

ODE's guidance on Distance Learning for All was released on Monday, March 30.

Is the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) still operating during the closure period?

Yes, but it is only operating online.

Starting Tuesday, March 24, due to COVID 19 precautions, TSPC is closing its office and all phone call correspondence. Email inquiries at contact.tspc@oregon.gov and online licensing applications will still be operating as usual.

How will school closures impact teacher candidates completing preparation programs, or current educators completing required professional development, coursework, or time-in-service requirements for license renewal in 2020?

The Teacher Standards and Practices Commission has released guidance on this issue, which can be found HERE.

I have a student who is struggling because of the pandemic. Is there anything I can do to help them?

The OEA Foundation will temporarily be expanding the allowable grant funding guidelines to support our students with immediate and basic needs. Until May 1, OEA members may apply for grants to help students with food, rent and utility bills. In addition, OEA Aspiring Educators (college students studying to become educators) have also been invited to apply for Foundation assistance if they are experiencing COVID-19-related financial need.

Do I need a special placard on my car, when going to work or if I drive for work?

No. There is no special documentation or placards for people going to work or permitted activities.

Will I be pulled over for driving on the highway?

Not for violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, which specifically outlines efforts to avoid large gatherings - not restrict the movement of Oregonians. If, however, you are committing a traffic violation or crime that would be enforced independent of the order, you may be stopped, like any other day.

Are the state lines closed and are there roadblocks?

No, traffic is moving freely within Oregon and our border states. There are no roadblocks or restrictions of vehicle movement. Washington State is operating under a similar executive order from their Governor, so Oregonians should be aware of these provisions when traveling in their state.

If my business is closed, can I still go to work if my employer makes me? Won’t I be arrested?

While the order prohibits the public from congregating at a closed business, the employer may still have work to do on site. As long as employees are not conducting business that is prohibited by the Executive Order, it is okay to still be at the worksite. No “passes” or paperwork is required.

How should I report workplace safety violations?

We encourage you to try and resolve any issues directly with your workplace supervisor. If workplace safety violations continue, we recommend you file a complaint with the Occupations Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by completing this form.

Are AP Exams Still Happening?

For schools that are already closed, or need to close, in March or April, the College Board will have make-up testing dates available—the scheduling of make-up dates will depend on how much instruction time has been lost. They’re also developing a solution that will allow students to take AP exams at home, and more information on in-home testing is expected soon.

How is the Coronavirus Impacting AP Exams?

The College Board announced on March 20 that normal AP exams would be suspended for 45-minute online exams.

These exams will be free-response only, and will be offered on two separate testing dates. These dates and more details will be released on April 3. The content on these exams will only cover any units taught up until March of this school year, and the College Board will be providing online review courses.

You will be able to earn college credit for these exams, and you’ll also be able to cancel for no charge if you no longer want to take AP exams. For those who do want to go ahead and take the exams, you’ll be able to do so from any device (computer, tablet, smartphone). You will also be able to take photos of any written work, if you don’t have wifi or a digital device. The College Board is doing their best to ensure that all students will have everything they need to test, and you can reach out to them if you require extra resources.