We have been looking forward all summer to serving our students safely in-person this fall. Since the school year ended in June, the landscape around COVID-19 has shifted dramatically, and the downward slope of case-counts that we saw in June and early July, has reversed.
The Delta variant continues to challenge our understanding of the virus. What we know for sure is that every safety measure we can put in place this fall, will help prevent disruptions all year, from quarantine, sickness, and prolonged absences.
Your PAT staff and officers have been working hard to assess the evolving situation, including COVID metrics, the updated guidances from the Oregon Department of Education and the Center for Disease Control, and recommendations from the American Association of Pediatrics.
The CDC, the AAP and the ODE have all recommended layered safety measures. In addition to vaccinating everyone who is eligible, these recommendations include:
- Wearing a mask indoors
- Frequent hand washing
- Ensuring physical distancing between students.
- Adequate ventilation in every classroom.
- A program for regular testing and COVID screening.
Many of these provisions overlap with our Safety MOU from the spring. That MOU had an “anticipated duration” of the 2020-21 school year, but things have not gone as anticipated, and COVID remains a significant threat to public health.
Today we notified PPS that if we do not update our standing agreement, our Spring 2021 Safety MOU will remain in effect, as our working conditions are still significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our objective is to have clear safety agreements in place before students begin the school year. We are hopeful that building off the work that went into our spring MOU, and the guidance from the CDC and ODE, this can be done very quickly. The district has already indicated verbally their intention to implement all the recommendations of the ODE.
We are creating a survey to assess your priorities in updating the agreement; we expect to get it to you by late next week.
In the meantime, we hope you are able to take time to relax for the last weeks of a much-deserved summer break.
Elizabeth Thiel, President
Portland Association of Teachers