New K-12 Metrics Update
From the Sherwood School District
November 6, 2020
Last Friday, we shared with you that Governor Kate Brown announced updated metrics for the reopening of K-12 schools. While the changes to these metrics will make moving forward with implementing On-Site/Hybrid instruction more attainable, it can be challenging to understand when that will happen -- particularly with cases of COVID-19 increasing here in our local area. In this communication, you will find a detailed description of how these new metrics impact our schools, as well as an update on our current status within the metrics and more information about our next steps.
Understanding the New Metrics for Returning to On-Site Instruction in a Hybrid Model
The table below provides a snapshot of the new metrics released by the Governor. Unlike the previous metrics, which looked at case counts over three individual weeks, the new metrics use case counts for the previous two weeks combined to determine if schools are eligible to open for On-Site instruction (including instruction in a Hybrid model), using a total case count over a 14 day period.
The first row on the chart, titled “County Case Rate,” is the row that applies to counties over 300,000 people, which includes Washington County. It identifies whether or not schools are allowed to open for On-Site instruction based on the total number of cases in the county -- per 100,000 people -- over a 14-day period. The official case rates on which schools must base their decisions are generally released each Monday afternoon.
The third row on the chart also applies to Sherwood schools. It directs schools on whether or not they are allowed to open based on test positivity rates. Schools need to meet both the metrics for the County Case Rates and the County Test Positivity.
Please click on the image below for a larger version of the metrics table.
What do each of these categories mean and what do they allow schools to do?
When both metrics are in the green area, districts in the county may prioritize a return to On-Site/Hybrid instruction for all grades.
When both metrics are in the yellow shaded area, districts in the county may prioritize K-6 On-Site/Hybrid instruction with grades 7-12 receiving distance learning.
When both metrics are in the orange area, districts are to continue their current model, but can begin planning for the transition to another model based on the trajectory of the county metrics.
Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI)
There has been confusion around the difference between Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI) and On-Site/Hybrid, which also involves in-person instruction. Based on ODE guidance, the key word in the phrase is Limited. Under the exception for LIPI, the District is limited in the number of students we can bring in at one time. There is also a limited amount of time we can bring in students during LIPI and specific reasons for bringing students into schools. ODE’s guidance also indicates that LIPI is not intended to replace classroom instruction. LIPI is reserved for critical services that cannot be conducted remotely, during periods when districts do not meet the metrics to safely offer On-Site/Hybrid instruction to all students.
The District has started offering LIPI by launching an assessment center at the former District Office location. In these offices, we are working through a backlog of required assessments -- such as evaluations to determine qualification for special education services which were not able to be completed last spring -- by bringing in students one at a time to conduct tests that must be completed in-person. The District is in the planning process for bringing in other students who may meet the guidelines under LIPI. Staff will reach out to students and families who qualify and may benefit from these services.
Under a Hybrid model for On-Site instruction, students still attend school for limited hours and in smaller groups; however, the Hybrid model is designed as an in-person means of offering classroom instruction to all students enrolled in our Hybrid classrooms. It is far less restrictive and allows us to bring many more students at a time. We do not currently meet metrics for offering the On-site/Hybrid instruction model.
Washington County Metrics
With the new metrics in place, we are now focused on case counts and test positivity in Washington County as we consider our ability to bring all students back into our schools. Below you will see the most recent data, released earlier this week, about Washington County’s current COVID numbers.
As you can see in this graph, our current case rate for the last two weeks is 143.9 cases per 100,000, with a test positivity rate of 8.2%. Under the new metrics, this places our county in the orange category, which means we must remain within our current Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) model while we continue our planning for our eventual phasing-in of On-Site/Hybrid instruction -- first at the elementary level, followed later by our middle and high schools. Early each week, case rates for the previous two weeks are calculated and released to our district. We will continue to review these metrics weekly, and will provide ongoing updates to our families as this upward trend shifts and we begin to move closer to the yellow category, where On-Site/Hybrid instruction can begin for our youngest learners.
The graph above, along with graphs for other counties in our region, is provided by the Northwest Regional Education Service District (NWRESD) and can be viewed at their website here. This data will be updated weekly at that website on Tuesdays. Washington County COVID information, including school metric data, can also be found at the Washington County Health and Human Services website here.
Next Steps in the Sherwood School District
While the current metrics do require our district to continue in the CDL model at this time, it is essential that we plan ahead for an effective transition to On-Site/Hybrid learning once we move into the yellow category. This includes a conversation with our Board of Directors, which will occur on Wednesday, November 18th, in a special work session at 5:45pm. A live stream of this work session can be viewed on our district YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/39VlhD3.
Once we have engaged our Board of Directors in this important dialogue, our school teams will continue to develop their detailed plans for the transition to an On-Site/Hybrid model of instruction. As you may recall, in September we shared information about our initial planning under the previous metrics, including the need for a transition period for staff and families to prepare -- and this need for a transition period is necessary under the new metrics, too.
Since schools first closed last March, there have been so many changes; changes in timelines to get students back to schools, changes in state guidelines and regulations that schools must follow, and changes to the way we think about the safety of students and staff coming back together in our buildings. We know that these ongoing changes are frustrating and confusing at times -- for families trying to find routine in the face of uncertainty, for staff working harder than ever to do their jobs in new ways, and, most importantly, for our students. As our district continues to adapt to this most recent change in the metrics, our top priority remains providing learning and resources to our students in the safest way possible.
Thank you for your partnership, and for your support of the students of our district.