The global COVID-19 pandemic, high unemployment among district families, school building closures, a worsening housing crisis, and political polarization have stretched our social fabric, our resources, and our school community. How we respond to this crisis is paramount.
The Douglas Way Forward
The families of David Douglas School District have much to celebrate: we are industrious, resourceful, and culturally vibrant. Our district has improved outcomes for English Language Learners, increased graduation rates among students of color, and kept programs like P.E. and music when other districts have lost these programs. We have done this with creativity and resolve in difficult, lean years.
My David Douglas community, we have again been called to weather tough times. This global pandemic has rocked every aspect of society, and has profoundly impacted our children. But we are DOUGLAS. We can and will survive this.
In the coming weeks, I will be holding many listening sessions (including partnering with culturally-specific organizations) so that I can hear how the in-person shutdown has impacted our kids and district families. I hope you will join me and encourage others to share their experiences. We will only emerge from this stronger if we listen to one another and act collectively for the good of our children.
A Safe Return to In-Person Learning
There can be no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended public education. A two-week shutdown to "flatten the curve" has turned into a near yearlong closure of our buildings and a shift to Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) for most students in the Portland area. And while we are still bound to follow Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education guidelines, I believe our district is close to a shift, as vaccinations increase and coronavirus cases wane. We can see the light at the end of this long tunnel.
The Governor recently announced an Executive Order demanding a return to in-person learning statewide this spring. The order requires school districts to reopen for grades K-5 by March 29, the end of Spring Break. Districts must reopen schools for grades 6-12 by April 19.
Exerpt from David Douglas communication to families about the Governor's Executive Order:
Based on the Governor’s executive order, and in collaboration with our School Board, staff and families, the David Douglas School District is now working to meet those deadlines and reopen in what is likely to be a hybrid model – a combination of in-person and distance learning. This will allow families that are more comfortable with an online option to continue with that model.
The health and safety of our students, staff and families is always our highest priority. Any plans to reopen still must fall within health guidelines established by the Oregon Health Authority. That means mask-wearing will be required, safe distancing must be enforced, frequent hand washing and sanitizing will be required, along with all other health guidelines outlined in the state’s Ready Schools Safe Learners plan. If those health metrics and safety guidelines change, our plans will change accordingly.
While most of our teachers and front-line employees will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated by March 29, our students and many of their family members will not. Our plans must put their safety first.
Every David Douglas school already has a Ready Schools Safe Learners planning committee in place. Those committees will immediately pivot to planning to reopen for in-person instruction by the Governor’s deadlines.
Our recent community survey showed us that about 45% of our students would return to school as soon as possible. But it also showed us that about 55% may not immediately come back. This means we also must have an online option in place for families that choose not to come back into classrooms.