Reopening Schools Update
From the Sherwood School District
January 8, 2021
Letter from Superintendent Heather Cordie
Dear SSD Families and Students,
I hope this email finds you well, and though I know our holidays looked different in 2020, I hope yours were filled with happy memories. Towards the end of December, on the 23rd, Governor Brown sent a letter to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), with a significant change in direction related to the reopening of K-12 schools. More information about that letter is included in this communication below. This change in direction was a surprise to us, but we are working diligently, alongside our associations, to refine plans -- steeped in safety for our students, our teachers and staff -- to bring students back to in-person learning in a methodical and thoughtful way.
In addition to working closely with our associations, our Board of Directors has been very engaged in the conversations we continue to have as we prepare to implement a Hybrid model of instruction. This included a Special Work Session held on Wednesday, January 6, and will continue in our Regular Board Meeting on Wednesday, January 13. More information on those meetings can be found below.
As we shared with you before the winter break, we have been working to implement Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI), and that work continues at our secondary level. However, our elementary level is now fully focused on planning for the implementation of our Hybrid model -- implementation of which will bring our youngest learners back into our buildings, with an ongoing focus on the health and safety of both students and staff. In the coming weeks, we are committed to keeping you informed, and will be sharing communications such as this one with you each week to provide you with updates and critical details you will need to prepare for the changes ahead.
As your Superintendent, the long-term closure of schools has weighed heavily on my heart, all these months -- yet I remain so appreciative of the extraordinary work of our teachers, staff, and administrators to rise to the challenge of continuing to educate and care for the students of the Sherwood community. As we move forward into the next phase of our school year, please know how committed our entire District team remains to serving students and families. Thank you for your ongoing support of our district, and for your support of the students of Sherwood.
Dr. Heather Cordie
On December 23, 2020, Governor Kate Brown, in a letter to the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority, called for new measures to move Oregon school districts closer to the goal of resuming in-person instruction. These measures included a review and update of the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance (expected by January 19, 2021), as well as a shift of the state’s K-12 reopening metrics from mandatory to advisory in nature. These new directives provide school districts with greater authority in making decisions about returning to in-person instruction, while still highlighting the necessity of collaboration with local and state health authorities and local stakeholders. The Governor has indicated her hope is that more schools, particularly elementary schools, will be able to implement in-person instruction by February 15, 2021.
Since that time, Elementary administrators have shifted their focus from preparing for Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI) to resuming planning for students returning to in-person instruction in a hybrid model. Secondary administrators are preparing to start LIPI in the near future and plan to ramp up LIPI in the weeks that follow. We are working closely with our staff associations and administrators to identify challenges and concerns, continuing to monitor cases rates following the holiday season, and are eagerly awaiting the January 19 update to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, which will prompt a review of the Operational Blueprint plans that have have been in development since last summer. Our Instructional teams are working out details related to schedules and procedures, and our Operational departments are implementing health and safety protocols to prepare buildings, buses, and equipment in a way that will maximize student and staff safety in the learning environment.
Board Work Session - January 6, 2021
In addition to the work noted above, on Wednesday evening District staff met with our Board of Directors to review the work done to-date, and to discuss next steps. In addition to topics shared by District staff, Board members heard public comments from over 100 students, parents, and staff members. Information about facilities, PPE, staff training/support, and transportation was shared, and an overview of topics covered in the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance was discussed. Secondary principals provided an update on the implementation of Limited In-Person Instruction, and elementary principals discussed the planning work underway to prepare for an initial launch of the Hybrid model for grades K-3, followed by the phasing in of grades 4-5 after a period of observation and refinement of procedures.
The video of that work session can be viewed below.
Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance and Operational Blueprints
Since last summer, you have seen our district communications referencing the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance. This document, currently on its 5th version, is an 89-page document providing an extensive list of requirements for all Oregon schools to follow in order to maximize the safety of students and staff when schools reopen. There are also additional supplementary guidance materials that inform practices around planning to respond to COVID scenarios, Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI), and ensuring equity and access.
Utilizing all of the guidance from the state level, each school must create and maintain an Operational Blueprint, which details how schools will adhere to the guidelines. The Operational Blueprints for all of the schools in our district can be viewed on our website at https://sherwood.k12.or.us/resources/reopening2020. These Blueprints are updated each time the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance is revised, which will occur again following the anticipated January 19 update.
It is important to note that even as our schools reopen, our adherence to these requirements means that school will look very different than ever before. Classroom furniture will be adjusted to accommodate spacing requirements, changing the capacity of all classrooms in the District. Contact tracing protocols will be implemented, and cohort groups will be strictly maintained. Daily tasks such as recess, meals, electives, and transportation will look and feel unlike anything our students and staff have seen before. Buildings will be closed to visitors and volunteers to avoid any additional exposure risk. These differences will take time for our students and staff to become familiar with -- yet it is exactly these differences that will turn the possibility of reopening schools into a reality.
Next Board Meeting - January 13, 2021
We will continue the discussion of reopening schools with our Board of Directors on January 13, 2021, in our 7:00pm Regular Meeting. A full agenda for that meeting will be published on Monday; in the meantime, stakeholders are invited to submit public comment in advance using the form found here. Please note that this is a new form than the one used if you submitted public comment for the January 6 meeting; each meeting has a unique form, and the previous meeting’s form no longer accepts comment submissions.
In the coming weeks, we will be sharing out further information about school reopenings, including details and timelines. Please watch for our regularly-occurring District communications in the weeks ahead, as well as communications from your student’s school with any school-specific details you will need to know as we prepare to transition into a Hybrid model of instruction.