FAQs

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 distributing meals to students and families, maintaining essential mental health services for students, and providing childcare to medical professionals who are working on the frontlines of keeping our community safe during this pandemic.

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. A regularly updated list of district meal information can be found here.

How will school employees be treated during the closures?

Guidance released by Governor Kate Brown made it clear that all Oregon school districts would receive allocations from the State Schools Fund as if the closure period had not occurred. Governor Brown has also directed all Oregon public schools to pay all employees during the closure.

Many substitutes, including those with long-term appointments, have lost work as a result of the closure of in-person instruction at our K-12 schools. OEA is working hard to reach agreements with local school districts that would provide for our substitutes, and are also working to get resources to our substitute members who have been impacted by the COVID closures. .

We are advocating to keep our community college staff safe and financially whole as our institutions of higher education continue to follow the governor’s executive order halting in-person instruction on college and university campuses

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

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 distance learning for 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.

Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

While most school employees have continued to be regularly paid during the school closure period, questions still remain about unemployment eligibility under unique circumstances. Governor Brown has issued an executive order loosening the rules around unemployment to help people who are quarantined or temporarily out of work due to COVID-19 – this includes people who need to stay at home to care for a child. Claims can be filed at Oregon.gov/employ or by calling 1-877-FILE-4-UI (1-877-345-3484).

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?

Governor Kate Brown has closed in-person instruction at Oregon’s K-12 public schools, colleges and universities through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

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.

Has the State Board of Education Taken any Action in Response to COVID-19?

Yes.

On Thursday, April 16 the Oregon State Board of Education voted to implement several temporary rules and to make several rule changes that will provide our K-12 schools flexibility as they strive to continue serving the students of Oregon during the closure period.

In short, the new rules do the following:

  • Move Oregon to a statewide system for graduation requirements that allows a path for the Class of 2020 to finish high school;
  • Provide opportunities for high school students in grades 9, 10, and 11 to earn credit this spring without being penalized for circumstances outside of their control;
  • Suspend the requirement for all districts to report teacher evaluations;
  • Remove the requirement to drop students from the roll after 10 consecutive absences;
  • And suspend the annual spring report from districts on enrollment used to reconcile the State School Fund.

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 state will release an updated economic forecast on May 20th which will provide more clear guidance on the state budget and potential need for adjustments.

Governor Brown has already asked state agencies to look at an 8.5% allotment cut, which has many school districts proposing cuts. This allotment cut does not account for any of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently in Oregon reserves specifically for this type of emergency. The legislature will consider tapping into those rainy day funds in a special session and the Oregon Education Association will advocate to keep school whole.

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. These spending bills are commonly referred to by the phase of federal response they represent.

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,” was signed into law on March 31, 2020.

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 $2 trillion spending package includes:

  • 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 – but they are expected to implement a distance learning plan

School districts are expected to follow ODE’s “Distance Learning for All” guidance as the design an implement these plans.

What’s the latest guidance from ODE?

ODE has released multiple updates to its “Distance Learning for All” plan since its original March 30, 2020 release. Those updates include guidance on graduation pathways and supporting our seniors, guidance for students in grades 9 through 11, and guidance for students in grades K-8.

You can see the full “Distance Learning for All” guidance document HERE.

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.