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June 2022 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

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

ODE Director Colt Gill 

June is a celebration month on the school calendar that brings some bittersweet feelings as well. For educators, administrators and staff in schools, June is the culmination of a year’s work as students progress to the next level. But that progress means you won’t see the same smiles and hear the same laughter in the building next year as one class moves on.

For students, it’s a relief that summer is here and school is over for a bit. But it also means not seeing the same friends every day or being able to talk with that favorite teacher. And for some, it means a transition to a new school or beyond next year.

Please watch and share my message to the Class of 2022. And thank you to the more than two thousand of you who watched and shared my message to educators.

June is a time for other important celebrations as well. It’s Pride Month and this weekend is Oregon’s newest state holiday: Juneteenth. Read the stories below for more information and resources on these vital celebrations.

Enjoy your summer!

Happy Juneteenth!

Juneteenth is Oregon’s newest state holiday, thanks to House Bill 2168 passed by the legislature last year. Juneteenth is a commemoration of the date in 1865 when Union troops reached Galveston Bay, Texas, and told the enslaved African-Americans there that they, along with the more than 250,000 other enslaved black people in the state, were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.

The first celebration of the anniversary came the following year and it spread throughout Texas and many southern states until the start of the 20th Century when Jim Crow laws were passed, essentially making African-Americans second-class citizens in their own country.

Here are some resources to help teach about Juneteenth:

Preparing for Breaks and Transitions With Care and Connection

Breaks and transitions in the academic year can be very challenging for Oregon students and school staff. Many families face loss, uncertainty and turmoil. Making time and space for care, connection, grace and patience are vitally important to nurturing health and well-being now, and throughout the school year.

Children, adolescents and adults often find comfort in predictable routines. So interruptions to regular activities during holidays and breaks can be anxiety-provoking. Reactions to these types of stressors can take many forms such as frustration, anger, irritability, sadness and withdrawal. These typical human stress responses may be particularly evident before, during and after time away from school.

For more information on how to promote and support health and well-being, review some of ODE’s Care & Connection recommendations.

Climate change disasters affecting youth mental health, report shows

The Oregon Health Authority sent this news release on June 14:

Increasing extreme weather events and climate-related disasters, climate stressors such as water and food insecurity, slow progress from leaders and increased awareness of the negative impacts of climate change are leading to feelings of hopelessness, despair, anxiety and frustration among young people, an Oregon Health Authority (OHA) report has found.

The report, Climate Change and Youth Mental Health in Oregon, also found that youth feel dismissed by adults and older generations in society, and are angry that not enough is being done to protect their future. They recognize that vulnerability to climate change is closely linked with systemic racism and structural oppression, and that both need to be simultaneously addressed.

OHA’s Environmental Health Assessment Unit prepared the report in response to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-04, which directs state agencies to take actions to reduce and regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The report shares research on how climate change affects mental health. It includes results from a literature review, youth focus groups, key informant interviews, and learnings from youth story circles.

The report is packed with quotes from young people about the effects of climate change on their mental health, such as:

  • “It is a huge weight…just really overwhelming and I already have generalized anxiety. So now I have to also deal with the climate crisis. It’s just really scary and frustrating. I just wish I could be ignorant and not care.”
  • “(Adults have) already lived their futures, if that makes sense. But I still don't know what mine's gonna look like because of this existential threat. And so it’s like yelling at the wall about like, this really scary thing, but not really hearing anything back.”
  • “It's like a constant thing. And it's like it affects all things and includes the wildfires on top of the settlers on top of their violence. And then thinking more broadly and globally, because I'm also indigenous to the islands of Tonga, a lot of our people are climate refugees and are no longer able to return home to the islands because it's sinking and cemeteries are underwater. And that's also settler induced climate change… I feel like climate change cannot be talked about without talking about settler colonialism, white supremacy and, like, genocide…”

For others, like Eliza Garcia, a 21-year-old University of Oregon student, the pressure of wanting to do more but knowing it may not be enough can be overwhelming.

“I feel this constant pressure to save the world from climate change,” Garcia said. “It’s the fear for our future and the guilt that I’m not doing enough if I’m not constantly working to fight climate change. It’s not fair, and I wish more was being done so that I don’t have to feel like this all the time and so people much younger than me don’t have to grow up with these feelings as well.”

Saraya Lumberas, 16, a Crater High School student in Medford, agrees. “I want people in power to know that this is our future. Our world. We don’t want to live with the consequences of their actions because they ignore the climate crisis and they ignore youth,” she said.

Ukiah Halloran-Steiner, 17, who lives in Yamhill County, said OHA’s report “proves something that young people have long known. The psychological weight of climate change is constantly upon us and the hopelessness of the crisis is inescapable if the adults in power continue with ignorance and inaction."

Julie Early Sifuentes, M.S., with OHA’s Climate and Health Program and the report’s lead author, said the report demonstrates the link between worsening climate events and growing climate-related distress.

“As climate effects get worse, youth are becoming very worried about their future and the future of their younger siblings,” Sifuentes said. “I hope this report gets more conversations going in communities across the state, about how we can join with youth in confronting these crises.”

Meg Cary, M.D., M.P.H., child and adolescent psychiatrist and senior health advisor at OHA, who served as an adviser to the study, said the report and the conversations and actions that follow represent the “first step to promoting youth emotional health during this time of uncertainty, fear and dismay.”

“Youth have spoken to what they need to move forward, including stronger connections with community, culture and nature, better access to mental health services and participation in policy making,” she said. “Protecting youth mental health is a state and national urgency. Collective and coordinated investments in these priorities is the next step in fostering youth well-being.”

The report concludes with a call to “decision-makers, educators, mental health professionals and environmental professionals” who have “opportunities to support youth mental health and resilience in the face of climate change …” These opportunities include:

  • Sharing power with youth in decision-making about climate and mental health policy and solutions to increase youth’s sense of hope, belonging and agency.
  • Educating themselves about the connection between climate change and youth mental health including healing centered approaches to engage with youth.
  • Increasing investments in school and community mental health services. These investments are needed to meet increasing demands to support youth, family, and community well-being.

“Youth need to feel a sense of control and empowerment when it comes to climate change,” Sifuentes explained. “Addressing these needs will build their confidence and resilience as they help society develop meaningful solutions to take on these environmental effects into the future.”

Cary added that an important takeaway for parents, other family members, educators, and mental health therapists is that they need to listen to, and not dismiss, youth who are experiencing climate anxiety.

“Listening means creating a space where the young people in your lives can express their full range of emotions, and it also means to join youth in engaging in actions and solutions,” Cary said. “For youth, I hope that they when they read this report, they feel heard and that they are not alone.”

For more information, including a link to the report and additional background, visit the Climate Change and Mental Health Effects page.

ODE In the News

June is Pride Month

LGBTQ2SIA+ Pride Month is commemorated each June to honor the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City. In 1969, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn staged an uprising to resist the harassment and persecution commonly faced by LGBTQ2SIA+ Americans. Stonewall is recognized as a significant event in the movement to raise awareness and eliminate discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ2SIA+ Americans.

As with all of the history/culture/heritage months, the acknowledgment and celebration of traditionally underrepresented groups should be integrated throughout the year. The calendar designation helps to remind us of a need for intentional inclusion.

Pride Month opportunities for celebration and information:

Resources for teaching:

It’s Time for Summer Learning

As the school year draws to a close and summer programs begin, we are sharing the resources in this email to support school health and safety during summer programming.

We deeply appreciate your continued partnership as we all work to provide the best summer learning experience and environment for students and staff across the state.

COVID-19 Prevention and Mitigation

  • Schools should continue to operate as described in the school or district’s current Safe Return to In Person Instruction & Continuity of Services plan through summer programming. These plans reflect the content of the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework.
  • Continue to refer to the actions named in the ODE/OHA School Health Advisory issued on May 13, 2022. More details on these key actions are in the School Health Advisory. Continue to closely monitor COVID-19 transmission within your county through COVID-19 Community Levels.
  • Schools should continue implementing free COVID-19 testing programs for students and staff.
  • When districts or schools are considering a shift to remote instruction, they should first maximize implementation of layered mitigation strategies, including recommending face coverings or implementing universal use of face coverings, prior to contemplating a move to remote instruction or other closure of in-person learning.
  • Schools should monitor unusual absenteeism or illness within a cohort and notify their LPHA about unusual respiratory disease activity if the following thresholds are met:
    • At the school level: ≥ 30% absenteeism, with at least 10 students/staff absent.
    • At the cohort level: ≥ 20% absenteeism, with at least 3 students/staff absent.
  • If students or staff have COVID-like symptoms, schools must exclude the individual per OAR 333-019-0010 (3) & (4).
  • Learning outdoors is an opportunity for summer programs. COVID-19 transmission rates are much lower outdoors. Schools are encouraged to use outdoor learning to help support safety and reduce the number of students and staff gathered indoors. Conduct learning in natural environments that allow for place-based learning, STEM exploration, and outdoor play. Supplemental Guidance for Learning Outside, is available as a reference to support incorporating outdoor learning into summer programs to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Non-school or non-school district programs may reference and follow Oregon Health Authority (OHA) youth program guidance for summer programs. OHA offers COVID-19 Testing Resources to K-12 summer programs and summer camps, including screening and diagnostic testing.

Other Health and Safety Concerns for the Summer

Extreme Heat:The Oregon Health Authority’s extreme heat webpage provides easily accessible resources for members of the public, local health departments and other organizations to assist ongoing outreach efforts to those most vulnerable to extreme heat events. Tools include knowing the warning signs and symptoms, health threats from extreme heat, and fact sheets in multiple languages.

Reducing Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke: Wildfires and smoke can create dangerous conditions for youth, especially those with chronic health conditions. The Oregon Health Authority’s wildfires and smoke webpage offers information about current wildfires, wildfire smoke conditions, and what you can do to reduce the health effects of wildfire smoke with tools such as wildfires in Oregon, health threats from wildfire smoke, and FAQs in multiple languages.

ODE’s Summer Learning Resources

On May 19, ODE released the companion toolkit to the Summer Learning Best Practice Guide. The toolkit supports the planning, managing, and implementation of robust, equity-driven summer programs by offering practical tools and resources. Please visit the Summer Learning website to find resources and additional information.

The leadership and commitment you have shown this past year is extraordinary. Working tirelessly to welcome students and families with an open heart, compassion, and grace; leaning into updated guidance to manage COVID-19 with layered mitigation strategies; implementing test to stay programs; hosting vaccination clinics and notifying families of disease exposure all required an incredible amount of flexibility, fortitude, and resilience. Our COVID-19 management planning for the 2022-23 school year will take lessons learned and build on them to strengthen our schools and the health and safety of everyone who enters through the doors. These lessons will continue to be important in the coming months as COVID-19 continues to circulate in our communities.

As always, we are here to support you, answer your questions and hear your comments. Please email us.

How Can Oregon’s New Agency Serve You? Take the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) Mission, Vision, and Values Survey

The Oregon Early Learning Division (ELD) wants your input in establishing the new agency, Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC). By participating in the survey, your feedback will inform DELC and help create a mission, vision and values that reflect, represent and support Oregon communities. Your feedback in this short, 10-minute survey makes a difference for Oregon’s children, families, early learning programs and communities.

Survey deadline: Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 5:00 p.m.

After completing the survey, please provide your contact information to receive a summary of feedback gathered, to learn about next steps for the agency and to provide additional comment. We will share the final version of DELC’s mission, vision and values through email and on the website.

ELD also created this infographic explaining the reasons for the change to DELC.

OSCIM Program Continues to Help Districts with Construction Projects

Last month, four school districts around the state passed bond measures that got a boost from the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching (OSCIM) Program. Commitments are made to districts ahead of the election so districts can inform their communities of the potential for additional funds from the state if the local bond passes. Before submitting an application for the OSCIM Program, districts must also submit a Facilities Assessment and Long-Range Facility Plan. Districts are awarded grants based on their position on the Priority List or First in Time List.

Since the first round of grants in 2016, the OSCIM program has awarded $361,374,563 in matching funds that added to $6.9 billion in bonds approved by voters. Here are the districts receiving matching funds following successful bond elections last month:

District Name Local Bond Amount OSCIM Grant
Amity SD 4J $30,000,000 $4,000,000
Beaverton SD 48J $720,000,000 $8,000,000
Dallas SD 2 $28,000,000 $4,000,000
La Grande SD 1 $7,150,000 $4,000,000

Student Spotlight