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January 2022 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

A Message from the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, Colt Gill

ODE Director Colt Gill

On January 3, ODE and the Oregon Health Authority issued an updated School Health Advisory for Continuity of Instruction. We are so thankful to see the media covering this advisory and schools implementing these policies. We set a North Star for this school year to safely hold school in-person, all-day, every school day, for every student, all year long. It is our highest priority.

We believe children learn better when taught in-person. We know children and families rely on schools to provide a caring and safe environment. And, many need access to a solid breakfast and a warm lunch that is provided at school. For parents and families, consistency matters, and for many, school is a way to ensure parents can go to work and support their family.

Four months into the school year, in-person learning is facing its greatest obstacles. The Omicron variant is surging and will continue to infect thousands more people in Oregon over the next few weeks. And, COVID fatigue has set-in. We are tired of having our lives and our routines interrupted or impacted by masks, physical distancing, vaccinations, all the other protocols that have worked to keep our numbers low.

Like every other workforce, schools have been and will continue to be impacted by this Omicron surge. Our educators, aides, office staff, drivers, cooks, servers, custodians, school leaders have shown amazing grit throughout the pandemic. And, they have kept the promise of in-person learning this year. They have worked well beyond their normal hours. They have worked outside their normal roles. They have tested students and each other. They have provided comfort and care. They have been succeeding. And, it is taking a toll on them, as they live and move through the pandemic just like other families in Oregon – trying to make it all work.

They will keep this going because they know how important in-person learning is. We have seen some schools move temporarily to short-term distance learning and we will see that happen more over the next few weeks. The primary reason is that there are too many staff impacted by COVID-19 to be able to operate school in-person – they are either ill or quarantined. This will cause challenges for everyone in that school community. With short notice families will need to figure out childcare and online classes, some will lose time at work. This month’s announcement about shortened quarantines will help reduce the impact and hopefully prevent more closures.

There are two other things we can do to reduce the possibility of moving temporarily to short-term distance learning. The first happens at school. We must set our COVID fatigue aside and reteach, reestablish, and reemphasize all the layered mitigation protocols:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted to avoid quarantines
  • Wear properly fitting masks to limit spread
  • Maintain physical distance
  • Provide opportunity for frequent hand washing
  • Even through the winter months, maintain good airflow and ventilation

Even with high community spread, consistently implementing these practices keeps COVID-19 from spreading in structured school environments. We have proven this, but we have to commit to it to ensure this works with the incredibly contagious Omicron variant.

Second, we need the support of the broader community. You can control community spread and reduce the number of cases that get introduced into our schools. First, get up-to-date on your vaccinations. Get the booster. Wear a mask whenever you are around people outside your household. These are the things you can do to help keep our school doors open for all of our children.

We hear a lot about the Omicron variant causing less severe cases of COVID-19 and while I’m not a medical doctor, I have a couple of thoughts about this:

  1. While the severity may be less – especially for those up-to-date with all their vaccinations; the community-wide impacts are as significant as ever. Flights are being cancelled, restaurants are temporarily closing some evenings, games are being rescheduled, schools are moving online. None of this is related to any mandate. It is happening because too many people are falling ill to keep operations going. Let’s come together to keep people healthy, if only to keep our schools operating in-person for our children.
  2. Our schools match our communities. We serve everyone in our public schools. That means that we have children, teens, and adult staff that are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 than the general community. While most who contract the Omicron variant may do just fine after a few days or weeks of illness; others may be hospitalized, impacted for months, or even die. Wearing a mask, getting a shot…to me, those seem like small prices to pay for sparing a vulnerable neighbor, friend, or family member from a severe case of COVID-19.

Thank you for doing what you can to help us reach our North Star for kids this year. Let’s keep our school doors open.

Using “Tools for Teachers” and Oregon Open Learning to Address Unfinished Learning

In response to students’ pandemic-impacted learning experiences, much has been published on the need to address unfinished learning and to continue to move students into grade-level content. Read on to learn more about two platforms that can help Oregon educators address unfinished learning.

Tools for Teachers

The Oregon Department of Education provides free access to over 500 instructional resources in English language arts and Mathematics, 40 formative assessment strategies, 60 accessibility strategies, and 40 professional learning resources dedicated to the implementation of evidence-based assessment. All of these resources are built on clear learning goals, are designed by teachers to elicit rich and meaningful evidence of student thinking, and help educators interpret and act on this evidence. Educators can be assured that these resources are of high quality, are aligned with Oregon standards, and are built on a strong foundation of research and evidence. Every Oregon educator has free access to these resources and much more in Tools for Teachers, which aligns completely with Oregon’s state standards and statewide assessment system.

Looking for right-sized assessment tools to show what students know and can do? Tools for Teachers aligns with Oregon’s interim assessment system through Connection Playlists, which give student performance progressions that can help educators extend and respond to student learning in real time.

Oregon Open Learning

The Oregon Open Learning Hub serves as a gateway to thousands of open educational resources (OER), which are defined by UNESCO as resources “that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” Resources on the Oregon Open Learning Hub have been curated or created by Oregon educators, for Oregon students. The curated collection contains a variety of teaching and learning resources including lesson plans, teaching strategies, full courses, assessment resources, and so much more! Resources are arranged by groups, source, or type of resource in order to make the hub easy to navigate. Groups in Oregon Open Learning are dedicated to a particular topic such as science education, arts education, Career and Technical Education (CTE), health and sexuality education, and so much more. Sign up for the Oregon Open Learning newsletter to stay informed and register for the next OER Workshop on February 15 from 4:00-5:00 p.m. to learn more.

Read more about ODE’s Tools for Addressing Students’ Unfinished Learning and share the resource with a colleague! If you’d like more information about Tools for Teachers, please contact the ODE Assessment Team. If you’d like to learn more about OER and the Oregon Open Learning Hub, please connect with the Oregon Open Learning Team.

One Year Until Implementation of Clean Diesel Requirement for School Buses in Portland Area

As part of HB 2007 (2019 session), the Department of Transportation’s Driver and Motor Vehicles Services (DMV) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are required to notify public entities and school districts in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties of the upcoming changes and requirements for medium-duty and heavy-duty diesel powered vehicles that are 1997 and older.

In January 2023, medium-duty and heavy-duty diesel powered vehicles powered by a 1996 or older diesel engine will need to have either been retrofitted with clean diesel technology and certified by DEQ or have an exemption certification form filed with DMV indicating that they are an exempt vehicle as provided for by this bill. Since January 3, 2022, entities that have vehicles that qualify for an exemption can access the exemption form online, fill it out and submit it to DMV. The possible consequence for failing to comply is that DMV will deny registration or registration renewal until compliance is verified.

For more information, read the 2019 memo sent out by ODE’s Pupil Transportation & Fingerprinting unit.

Last Chance to Nominate a Teacher!

January 31 is the last day to nominate great teachers for 2023 Oregon Teacher of the Year! Thanks to our partnership with the Oregon Lottery, the Oregon Teacher of the Year program will again honor exemplary educators in every region of the state!

  • Nomination period closes Monday, January 31, 2022 at oregonteacheroftheyear.org.
  • Nominated teachers then submit their applications by Sunday, March 27, 2022.
  • Education Service Districts will select a winner from their region.
  • Regional Teachers of the Year will be honored across the state in May 2022!
  • One of the Regional Teachers of the Year will be named the 2023 Oregon Teacher of the Year next school year!

Anyone can nominate a teacher at oregonteacheroftheyear.org, and each Regional Teacher of the Year will be in the running for the honor of 2023 Oregon Teacher of the Year.

Power of Partnerships Learning Community

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, is partnering with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the 50 State Afterschool Network to elevate the #PowerOfPartnerships and invest in afterschool and summer learning for recovery and acceleration and to expand students’ connections and support.

They want to connect you to resources and potential partners to leverage expanded learning opportunities for young people. AASA will build a #PowerOfPartnerships Professional Learning Community (PLC) of eight school districts – four districts/communities that are innovative leaders in the field and four where AASA and partners will assist in creating more integrated partnerships for student success.

If the majority of children served in your district are low-income, and you’re interested in being part of this free network of leaders focused on the Power of Partnerships, contact Bryan Joffe, AASA’s Director of Children’s Programs.

Visit AASA’s Power of Partnerships webpage for resources like the critical role afterschool plays for learning impact and more information.


Serving Meals During COVID Times

With the increases in COVID cases throughout the state, many of the schools operating under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) are having to make the tough choice of possible school closures or a return to distance learning and/or hybrid learning.

As we learned throughout COVID, serving methods can change rapidly due to the pandemic. With that, we would like to provide some additional clarification of when meal services can be claimed for school year 21-22.

When are Schools Allowed to Serve Meals Under the NSLP/SSO?

  • Meals can be served on days when instructional time is scheduled. If a school plans to offer virtual learning or a mix of in-person classes and virtual learning, the school is considered open and any meals provided to children must be offered through the Seamless Summer Option.
  • Meals can be served during an unanticipated school closure. An unanticipated school closure is when the school has closed on an unscheduled basis for day(s) that would have otherwise been planned instructional days. Note: An unanticipated closure means that the school is not providing instructional time. School is closed. This is usually due to weather, natural disaster, school safety or other unscheduled events.

Note: Schools are not required to provide meals during closures. At the onset of COVID, Governor Brown had issued an executive order requiring meals service. This executive order is no longer in place and providing meal service during an unanticipated school closure is optional.

When Are Schools Not to Serve Meals Under the NSLP/SSO?

  • Meals may not be served on days when school is not in session. Schools may not serve weekend or holiday meals. As an example, if a school operates a four day school week, and provides instruction time Monday-Thursday, meals may not be served Friday through Sunday.
  • Meals may not be served during anticipated/planned closures. Schools may not serve meals when the school is closed on a planned non-instructional day (this includes scheduled holiday breaks such as Spring Break). As an example, if the school is closed for a ‘teacher in-service day’ and students are not scheduled to receive instruction time, then meals may not be served under the SSO.

As a reminder, Sponsors must notify their assigned nutrition specialist of any changes to meal service operations or to opt-in to the non-congregate meal service option. When notifying your assigned specialist (via email), please also include the sites affected, the dates of the meal service changes, reason for the non-congregate opt-in and indicate whether or not you will be delivering meals. All available waivers are still in effect throughout this school year, to see details visit the USDA webpage dedicated to Questions & Answers for CNP in School Year 2021-22.

Funding available to support walking and rolling to school!

School districts are invited to apply for grants and services to address barriers to students walking and rolling to school. Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Safe Routes to School Program grants can cover staff time to facilitate walking and biking education programs and encouragement events plus more. ODOT has services and grants that can fit the needs of school communities with a current Safe Routes to School program and communities just getting started.

ODOT also has grants for tribes, cities, and counties to build needed sidewalks and safe street crossings near your school. Join them for workshops, webinars, and other opportunities to access application support for these programs in January – March 2022. Attend an informational webinar on January 18 or a regional workshop on January 19. You can stay up to date on all Safe Routes to School program and funding opportunities by signing up to receive the newsletter.

Isolation and Quarantine Guidance Update for Child Care

With record COVID-19 case numbers and spread of the Omicron variant across Oregon, we know there are many questions about child care and potential updates to the child care guidance. Unlike for K-12 settings, the CDC has not yet updated its guidance for child care. However, the CDC and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) continues to direct all individuals who cannot safely wear a mask indoors and who will be eating in shared spaces should continue to isolate and quarantine for 10 days, as outlined in the September 2021 version of Early Learning Division’s (ELD) “Child Care Provider COVID-19 Requirements and Recommendations.”

Encouraging children two years and older who are able to safely wear a mask while indoors, will further reduce risk of COVID-19 and promote health equity. Programs should consider adaptations and additions to infection prevention strategies to best serve children with disabilities.

If the CDC provides updated guidance for child care, the ELD, in partnership with the OHA, will share an update with providers. The CDC also recommends that individuals remain up to date with their vaccines, which includes additional doses for those who are immunocompromised or booster doses at regular time points. Those who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination include:

  • Individuals 18 or older who have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
  • Children 5–17 years who have completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.

Providers with questions can reach out to their licensing specialist or email us.

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