Since two St. Helens schools have paused in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other schools across the state face similar health and safety challenges, the state is issuing new advisories.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education's (ODE) latest advisory is an effort to help keep students in the classroom.
Studies have shown that students learn best in-person, where they have access to other on-site critical services, according to the two agencies.
The ODE and OHA said that layers of safety protocols are essential for protection from the spread of COVID-19 and spending more time indoors brings increased risk of that spread, requiring strengthened protocols.
Because schools are controlled settings with layered mitigation safety protocols in place, the ODE and OHA said the risk of COVID-19 transmission can be lower than in general community settings. Oregon schools have been using the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in school settings.
To maintain the in-person instruction, the ODE and OHA have issued the following School Health Advisory, to remain in until Oct. 31, unless otherwise updated.
- To reduce spread and the number of students and staff excluded from school due to quarantine, each school should review their ‘Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan’ to:
- Consider implementing additional layers of protection, such as include increased airflow and circulation, implementing all three COVID-19 testing programs, retraining staff on all protocols, and ensuring all staff, students and families know the COVID-19 symptoms); and
- Enhance implementation of current layers (examples include reviewing contact logs, class and bus seating charts, transition activities, and mealtime practices for improvement).
All public and private school staff should complete their vaccination series by Oct. 18 deadline for K-12 workers, in order to protect staff and students alike and prevent classroom learning disruptions.
The ODE and OHA also recommend that all eligible youth and adults who come in contact with school-age children vaccinate to prevent COVID-19 spread in the school community and reduce the number of COVID-19 quarantine measures for students and staff.
The departments expect federal approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12 this Fall and say that when the vaccine is available, families should vaccinate all eligible children to reduce spread of COVID-19 in school and reduce the impact of quarantine resulting from exposure.
Families with school-age children and educators should:
- Limit gatherings and non-essential activities with people from other households,
- Wear a face covering.
- Maintain a physical distance of six feet.
- Keeping activities outdoors as much as possible.
The ODE and OHA also recommend that to the extent possible, schools and other organizations reduce extracurricular activities. If schools and other organizations proceed with extracurricular activities, the ODE says they should consider holding them outdoors and implementing additional precautions like face coverings and physical distancing.
The ODE and OHA advise schools hold family events (open houses, meet the teacher nights, carnivals, fundraisers, etc.) online, rather than in-person. If events are held in-person, hold them outside, ensure all participants wear masks, and maintain physical distancing of six feet to the degree possible.