As much of Oregon is seeing, and specifically Lane County, we are experiencing a large spike in cases of COVID-19 among staff and students today. Fortunately, all of our staff have been vaccinated, and symptoms for everyone to this point have been relatively mild, and we expect them back in school soon. Since the beginning of the year, our primary concern has been to maintain in-person instruction. We have been able to do that through the creativity, teamwork and dedication of our staff, as well as by following all of the layered mitigation safety protocols. To date, we have not had to alter our calendar due to a lack of staff, or as a result a COVID outbreak. While daily in-person instruction throughout the year is our goal, all school districts in Lane County are preparing for the possibility of needing to close for short periods of time.
On Monday, ODE released a School health Advisory for Continuity of Instruction. One of the things it addresses is that the expected spike in cases, thus resulting in requirements to isolate (for those ill) or quarantine (for those that are close contacts) and the impacts on workforce stability in a wide range of sectors, including schools. We expect further updates from ODE on Friday regarding new requirements and guidance in the areas of quarantine, isolation, test to return, up-to-date vaccination status, safety protocols, athletics, testing programs and more.
The next month is critical. By mid to late January the modeling currently shows that we could be through this surge, and cases will drop off dramatically. We need the help of families and community members in order to maintain in-person instruction:
- Keep your child home if they have symptoms.
- Vaccination remains the best protection against serious illness and reduces spread of the disease.
- Limit gatherings.
- Follow safety protocols including masking, hand-washing, distancing, etc…
We will try to keep the community apprised of any changes. Below we will briefly address multiple topics I would like our students and families to prepare for.
Remote Learning: If the district needs to shift to remote learning, we are prepared to do so. We believe we can get Chromebooks issued in 24 hours to our K-8 students (H.S. students already have them), and only need to be “closed” for one day. If the district needs to close for multiple days (more than 3)…it is most likely we will look at engaging in remote learning. If the district needs to close for less than 3 days, it is most likely that we will NOT be engaging in remote learning, we will simply have no school days. In this case, there is a possibility the school year could be extended. The need to do this, if it arrives, will be last minute. We would encourage families to have a plan in place. It will be a last resort.
Athletics: For now, there are no long term changes to athletics, however due to an outbreak today among both basketball teams, both of those programs are needing to “pause” for one week. I do not want to pause athletics permanently, as we are committed to providing as normal an athletic experience for our student athletes as possible. Practicing the safety protocols listed above will be critical going forward, and for basketball teams when they return. We want to make clear to our students and parents, that while we value participation in athletics, there is a much higher risk of catching and spreading COVID for our student athletes. The primary difference here is that attending school is compulsory, while participating in athletics is voluntary. This allows the district (through state guidance) — to have different requirements for each.
Will students be required to be vaccinated and/or boosted?: I have looked into this extensively in the last few weeks, and while I certainly cannot say I am 100% sure of anything, I am comfortable making the two statements below:
- I do not expect any changes to the vaccination requirements in this school year.
- If this were ever to occur, just like all other required vaccinations for students, I would expect parents would have a clear and relatively simple path to “opt-out.”
Updates to Quarantine & Isolation: The CDC made new recommendations early this week. OHA officials are currently working with the CDC regarding what this means for schools. As soon as we get an update, and have time to interpret it, we will share this information.
Thank you to all the families, students and staff that continue to be flexible, follow protocols, and work hard daily to ensure we can continue to maintain in-person instruction. That remains the goal, every day.
Gary E. Carpenter, Jr.
Fern Ridge Families, I wanted to update you with as much information as I can, while not compromising the investigation being done by both local and Federal authorities.
- What was the threat? In simple terms, it was that violence was going to occur on the EHS campus (there was a minor reference to FRMS)—No specific names were used and it was mostly directed towards staff.
- Was there more than one person making threats? At this time, we believe it was one person.
- Why re-open school if the person hasn’t been caught? The decision to close school was made in conjunction and consultation with local authorities, as was the decision to re-open.
- Is the investigation over? No, multiple law enforcement agencies continue to work this case. I remain hopeful we will identify the individual(s).
- Will you continue to provide updates? I will continue to provide updates as warranted.
- Can I keep my student home from school? If you believe this is what is best for you and your family at this time, then yes. Please contact the school and work with the office and teachers regarding school work.
Thank-you for your continued patience and understanding. This incident, ensuring students and staff are safe, and identifying the individuals that are involved, continues to be our top priority.
Gary E. Carpenter, Jr.
Superintendent, Fern Ridge School District
Fern Ridge Families,
Thank you for your patience and understanding in regards to our last-minute closure of school. Both EHS and FRMS will be operating on a normal Wednesday early release schedule tomorrow, January 5th.
Both local and Federal Law enforcement continue to investigate the anonymous threat that was made against our school community yesterday. At this time, the origin of the threat has not been identified. Assuming this threat came from someone in our community, it is likely that a student somewhere knows something that could lead to their identification. Please speak to your high school age students regarding anything they may have heard or know. Thank you to the members of our community that did report this to the district.
The vast majority of our young adults are making good decisions, but this is an unfortunate reminder that some youth are using it to cause fear. These threats cause panic and concern for our students and families. We respectfully ask that parents monitor their student’s social media use, and if you are unable, to restrict access to it. Resources on how you can support your child in the responsible use of social media can be found at:
The best security system we have continues to be the eyes and ears of our students who contact trusted adults. Please remind your students that we need their help to keep our campuses and community a safe place. A reminder also that the district utilizes the SafeOregon tipline. Anyone (student, staff member, or community member) can leave an anonymous tip at 844-472-3367 or through email at email@example.com at any time.
Gary E. Carpenter, Jr.
Please share the information below. A phone dialer will go out to all FRMS and EHS families by 7:00 AM tomorrow, January 4th, that summarizes this post.
Fern Ridge Families,
It is important that you are aware of a development in our District involving school safety.
After two threats of violence against Elmira High School that were posted on social media today, Monday January 3rd, I am taking the extraordinary step of cancelling classes at Elmira High School AND Fern Ridge Middle School on Tuesday, January 4th. This is only because investigators are still trying to determine the viability of the threats. We were informed of the threats at approximately 2:15 and 6:30 PM.
Veneta Elementary and Elmira Elementary will remain open on their normal schedules Tuesday. In an abundance of caution law enforcement will be providing an enhanced presence at those sites although there were no threats directed at these schools.
I realize that cancelling classes will be a hardship for many, particularly with such late notice. While it is in my nature to confidently move forward with school, in this particular situation we believe some additional time for law enforcement and the district to investigate will be helpful. This has been an extremely difficult decision, but when it comes to student safety we must – and do – take threats seriously.
The law enforcement investigation could lead to serious disciplinary action including criminal charges regardless of whether the threats were intended to be taken seriously.
The safety and security of all students and staff is our first priority. We commend those who have reported these threats. This week, and always, if you hear or see anything that may indicate a safety issue, please report it right away.
I will provide more relevant information on the investigation if and when it becomes available. When students return to school, and I fully expect that to be on Wednesday, we will be reminding them that words do matter. If anyone has ANY information regarding where these threats may have generated, please contact the school.
Fern Ridge Superintendent
The Fern Ridge School District has become aware today of troubling posts that have been shared widely around the country on the social media platform, TikTok. The posts refer to a threat to school safety for “every school in the United States” on Friday, December 17th. There has been NO threat to our local schools.
The post appears to be part of a national TikTok trend that did not originate in our school district, or even in Oregon. KVAL ran a short story on this topic today, that you can view here: https://kval.com/news/nation-world/schools-across-us-respond-to-vague-shooting-threat-circulating-on-tiktok.
All FRSD staff have been informed of this situation. In addition, I have been in contact with local law enforcement and there may be an increased presence around our schools tomorrow.
Over the last six weeks, two families and our school community have experienced tremendous loss with the deaths of two students. The district has been working with multiple support and partner organizations in recent weeks to support students, staff and families.
As a continuation of these services we would like to invite parents to attend a virtual meeting/forum on Wednesday, December 15th, at 6:30 PM. Our community is grieving and this informational and support night is intended as an opportunity to hear from experts in this field regarding how parents can best support their children who are coping with grief and loss. Please see the flyer below for all the information, and share with anyone you think may benefit from attending. Direct Zoom Webinar Link Here Passcode: 827232
Due to continuing icy and dangerous driving conditions, FRSD and all activities are cancelled for today, Tuesday December 14th.
Out of an abundance of caution, the School District in consultation with First Student, is announcing a 2-hour delay for tomorrow, Tuesday the 14th. Typically we will wait until the morning when the weather pattern is uncertain, however Accuweather is showing an “expected” pattern in the morning that is problematic. At 4AM It is expected to be 32 degrees, and then get cooler as follows: 5 AM: 31 degrees, 6 AM: 30 degrees, 7 AM: 30 degrees, 8 AM: 29 degrees.
When the driving conditions turn dangerous after 5:30 or 6:00 AM, it is difficult for the District to change course as parents and students are expecting buses to be there to pick up students. While there certainly is the opportunity for the roads to be fine in the morning, the District will be operating on a 2 hour delay–based on the forecast and roads that are currently very wet. Any changes or updates will be shared here. Please pass along this information. A phone dialer will go out this evening to all families and FRSD staff.
We have been informed of a vehicle accident past Noti. They have closed 126. For all of our families on Bus Route 1 (elementary) and Route 2 (FRMS/EHS). Please expect a phone call and plan to meet at Noti Market. Phone calls will begin with Elmira Elementary families and then proceed with FRMS and EHS families.
COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at Veneta Elementary School
This clinic will be put on by Lane County Public Health especially for our Fern Ridge community!
- Tuesday, November 23rd from 4:00 – 7:00 – Dose 1
- Tuesday, December 14th from 4:00 – 7:00 – Dose 2
- Veneta Elementary School Cafeteria
- This clinic is for kids aged 5-11 years old (12-17 year-olds can be vaccinated also if a younger sibling is getting vaccinated). Adults will not be vaccinated at this time. Lane County is taking appointments at this time and won’t be available for drop-in vaccinations.
- Pre-registration required. Sign-ups open the morning of Friday 11/19. Use code FRSDKids at COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics – Lane County (“schedule a vaccine appointment” – be sure to select ‘pfizer’ when signing up as this is the only brand available to this age group) (select ‘tue’ then ‘mobile’ to find the clinic in our neighborhood). If you try to sign up prior to Friday am the clinic won’t show up on their website. https://lanecounty.org/vaxclinics
*Kids will be considered “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks after the second dose.
Fully vaccinated children who come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will no longer need to quarantine away from school unless they are experiencing symptoms!
For more information, resources, FAQs, etc., please visit: Fern Ridge School District 2021-2022 School Year.