Parents, Students and Staff of Fern Ridge:
As mentioned in a previous post, the District hopes to share the COVID-19 safety precautions that we will implement when school begins in September by mid-August. However, we would like to share with folks where we are headed so that families can prepare; our current thinking so to speak. These decisions are not being taken lightly, as every decision impacts families, students, and staff members differently. The decisions that will be finalized in mid-August when I share my recommendations with the School Board, WILL negatively affect some of our constituents. There is no way around it. We will do everything in our power to minimize those effects and support students and families in the best way that we can. In addition, it must be clear that our “plan” is subject to change at a moment’s notice. I have discussed the strategies outlined below with Lane County Public Health and our plan has received their support as they are based in sound public health practice and science. I have also discussed our plan with our insurance carrier, and with today’s information and conditions they are in support of it as well. I will be scheduling our insurance carrier for an onsite visit later in September for them to review the implementation of our practices, and to provide feedback.
On Thursday, June 22nd, ODE released their updated guidance, the Ready Schools Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 21-22 School Year (click here). The guidance changed very little, so with no update expected prior to mid-August, I am comfortable sharing what our current thinking is. Having said that, I want to repeat that it is not the final decision and even if we start the school year under what is described below, it may change quickly based on new guidance or variables we are experiencing in our schools. The district will CONTINUE TO WORK WITH LCPH THROUGHOUT THE YEAR AS CONDITIONS CHANGE.
MASKS: As described in the ODE guidance, we plan to strongly encourage masks for all staff and students K-12, but not require them. Masks are an effective way to slow or prevent the spread of disease. It should be noted that at this time, the CDC IS REQUIRING that masks be utilized on all public transportation, which includes school buses (click here). As long as that mandate is in place, we will comply with it.
PHYSICAL DISTANCING: As described in the guidance, the district will support and promote physical distancing in multiple ways, including:
- Maintaining at least 3 feet between students where possible.
- Consider physical distancing requirements when setting up learning spaces.
- Minimize time standing in lines and take steps to ensure required distance is maintained, including floor markings and one-way traffic flow in constrained spaces.
COHORTING: As described in the guidance, the District will develop cohorts to the extent possible. This will take place to some degree at all grade levels, with more of this at the lower grade levels, and less of it at the upper grade levels due to instructional constraints.
MEAL TIMES: In all buildings, increased distancing will be emphasized during meal times.
COHORT LOGS: Logs and attendance data will be kept and referred to. Cohorts help manage risks in the potential spread of COVID-19. In particular, the size of the cohort matters for risk management. Student cohorting:
- Limits the number of exposed people when a COVID-19 case is identified in the school.
- Quickly identifies exposed individuals when a COVID-19 case is identified.
- Minimizes the number of people who may need to be quarantined as well as school-wide disruptions in student learning.
ENTRY SCREENING: While we are not sure what this will look like yet, there will be entry screening. Not having sick staff or students come into the building is one of the best ways to stop the spread of any virus.
MERV-13 FILTERS: Prior to COVID-19, most schools (along with Fern Ridge) used MERV-8 filters in their HVAC systems. In 20-21 we upgraded (with a significant cost increase) to the use of MERV-13 filters. A MERV rating chart can be accessed by clicking here
INCREASED AIR EXCHANGE: We have been and will continue to work with our HVAC vendors and facilities staff to set our systems up for maximum air exchange of our spaces, as allowed by the constraints of the outside temperatures.
P.R. CAMPAIGN REGARDING KEEPING SICK KIDS HOME: This has always been something we have tried to do. It will be emphasized this fall. Please keep your students home if they are displaying any symptoms of illness.
USE OF SYNEXIS SPHERE SYSTEMS IN KEY SPACES: This is a hydrogen peroxide gas and Dry Hydrogen Peroxide Technology for occupied spaces. Several professional sports teams are using this technology in their locker rooms/clubhouses. We have purchased these devices for our health/isolation rooms at each school, as well as the locker rooms at EHS and FRMS. This technology uses ambient humidity and oxygen naturally present in the environment to create a safe level of hydrogen peroxide which reduces unwanted microbial contamination in the air and on surfaces. To read more about these devices you can click here.
HEALTH/ISOLATION ROOMS: As advised by ODE and OHA, the district will have exclusion and isolation protocols for sick students and staff identified at the time of arrival or during the school day.
EXCLUSION FROM SCHOOL: School administrators are required by Oregon law to enforce exclusion OAR 333-019-0010. Students and staff are required to isolate when they exhibit “primary symptoms” of COVID-19 per symptom specific guidance. They may return after a negative test, or 10 days if not exposed, 14 days if exposed.
HAND WASHING & USE OF HAND SANITIZER: Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Each building will create protocols and systems to ensure access to soap, water and alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
INCREASED SANITATION BY CUSTODIANS AND ALL STAFF: Increased cleanings in particular of high touched surfaces both after school and throughout the day will be conducted.
COVID-19 TESTING: There are two types of testing programs discussed in ODE guidance. Those are diagnostic testing and screening testing. The district will not be participating in screening testing. Diagnostic testing is the testing of students or staff who develop symptoms at school. We are working toward having this option available for our staff and students.
TRAINING: Training for staff and students will occur at the beginning of the year regarding all of the safety protocols in place.
It will take a team effort to ensure our schools can stay open to in-person instruction, and everyone has a responsibility to do their part. I am hopeful that the safety measures listed above provide us with an excellent opportunity to experience a full school year, and limit the spread of the virus. Finally, a few additional pieces of important information:
- The district is required to enforce quarantining and isolation protocols. When a case of COVID-19 is identified in our school, we will contract trace with the assistance of our staff and District Nurse. Any staff member or student that is unvaccinated and determined to be a close contact, will be excluded from school for 14 days. When primary symptoms are shown, there are strict guidelines we must follow before the individual can return.
- Instruction WILL be interrupted. One of the biggest challenges we will face is the disruption of instruction when required to isolate/quarantine. Simultaneous “live” instruction will not be provided when this occurs. However, we will work with individually families to support their students.
- Be respectful of others. Many staff and students will continue to wear masks. Most, if not all, certainly wish to be mask free but they have individual circumstances that prevent it. We have many medically fragile students. We have siblings of medically fragile students, and we have folks who have medically fragile family members living in their home. For many of these people the vaccine is either not advised, or unavailable due to their age. Mask “shaming” or “harassment” will not be tolerated in any form, and will be addressed directly and quickly.
Gary Carpenter, Superintendent FRSD 28J