When students return to Portland Public Schools this fall, they’ll likely be separated into small groups that can only meet with each other and rotate their days in and out of the classroom.
Some children, particularly those in grade school and students from historically underserved groups, may see more in-person instruction than their peers and receive additional supports in math and reading.
Decision-makers in the state’s largest school district on Tuesday presented their early-stage plans to reintroduce students into Portland classrooms, saying they hope to have an idea of what their blueprints will look like by July 1.
But those plans will likely remain under wraps until at least mid-summer, Chief of Student Support Services Brenda Martinek said, as officials track down “as many potential potholes as possible.”
Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero billed the presentation as an overview of the “moving parts” district leaders are considering as they prepare for the coming school year.
Schools Chief Shawn Bird, who was hired from the school district of Philadelphia in January, said district officials will focus as the school year launches on assessing students’ social-emotional health and quickly move on to gauging their academic readiness.
“We want to make sure every student is level-set at the beginning of the year,” he said. “As you might imagine, a student in math builds upon a foundation. You need to make sure kids have those skills so they can go on to the next level.”
Educators will need time, Bird said, to adapt to the new configuration, a mix of the traditional brick-and-mortar schooling experience and state-mandated distance learning methods like those district officials adopted in late March.
Bird said teachers had the benefit of having established relationships with their students in the spring before diving into a digital classroom. When classes start this fall, those relationships will take time to build.
“For a kindergartener to start school without having some face time with their teacher is challenging,” Bird said.
The Oregon Department of Education earlier this month laid out guidelines for how the state’s public schools may begin to reintroduce students to in-person instruction in this fall.
Students will need to remain at least six feet apart inside school buildings and educators will need to limit the number of children allowed inside a classroom to provide 35 square feet per person.
Children won’t be required to wear masks
, but school employees will.
Children who physically attend school must be screened for symptoms before they enter the building or board a bus. If any student or school employee shows symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, dry cough or shortness of breath, they’re to be immediately isolated and sent home.
Each school must designate a point person to enforce social distancing rules and report to the state any suspected coronavirus infections.
Before they can return to the school building, those sent home will need to either be tested or wait three days after their fever breaks without the use of any medication to bring it down.
If a student or school employee tests positive for COVID-19, they’ll need to wait at least 10 days or test negative twice before they return to school.
State officials will require districts to draft blueprints for each school that detail the building’s dimensions and student capacity, as well as steps employees will take to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.
Teachers may utilize outdoor and common areas in an effort to adhere to those guidelines, state officials said. They also must livestream their lessons for students who aren’t in the building that day.
State guidance also requires districts to consistently clean playground equipment, common areas, classrooms and door handles. Students also won’t be allowed to share materials like pens and scissors.
Portland Public Schools leaders don’t yet know how those requirements will impact the budget — as of now, districts are largely on their own when it comes to purchasing cleaning supplies and equipment.
State officials have left open the possibility they may purchase a stockpile for districts to pull from, using their ability to buy in bulk as leverage to reduce the price per unit.
–Eder Campuzano | 503-221-4344 | @edercampuzano
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