A tentative agreement for the return to in-person instruction will be voted on by the Portland Public Schools board of directors Thursday evening.
The tentative agreement between PPS and Portland Association of Teachers outlines required conditions for returning to work to “ensure student, family, and educator safety so that community spread of the disease is suppressed.” The agreement also sets priorities and preparations for a return to in-person school as well as ongoing safety precautions.
Portland schools are expected to open for kindergarten and first graders on April 1, with other students heading back in waves over the month.
Some students will choose to remain home in comprehensive distance learning. For those students, at the elementary level, things will look much the same as they have for the last year, but with a little less live instruction time.
Students learning in-person will have two hours and 15 minutes of time in the school building four days a week.
Students will arrive either for a morning or afternoon session that begins with a classroom check-in and social emotional learning, according to a sample schedule from the district. Students would then receive 80 minutes of instruction in math and reading before grabbing lunch and heading home. Students who attend school in-person in the morning will get 30 minutes of live instruction in an extracurricular subject in the afternoon, followed by asynchronous learning in science, social studies and health.
Students will be grouped into cohorts, with educators teaching a different cohort in the morning and afternoon. For students attending school in-person in the afternoon, they’ll participate in their special subjects from home, in the morning.
For middle and high school students who opt in to hybrid learning, they will have two hours and 30 minutes of time in the school building one or two afternoons a week. All students in grades 6-12 will have their core classes at home, via distance learning.
Middle and high school students choosing to return in-person will spend their in-person time in “applied learning.” In a message to families sent Wednesday, the district said the time “will allow students to have interaction with their teacher and peers to explore topics more in-depth as well as get assistance with material that may present a challenge.”
The district said older students will also be able to interact with peers in small groups.
Students in the upper grades who choose to remain in comprehensive distance learning will do their “applied learning” without a teacher.
Sample schedules for middle and high school students are here. Teachers and district administrators had discussed the possibility of students in-person and at-home receiving instruction from a teacher at the same time, through a “simulcast” video feed out of the teacher’s classroom. Administrators said it was the most practical way to offer direct, in-person instruction with a minimum of health risk, given the large class sizes in middle and high schools. Teachers were skeptical of that approach, and under the tentative agreement, “No educator shall be required to offer both distance learning and in-person instruction simultaneously.”
Under the agreement, PAT members will be included in school safety committees and rooms will be evaluated to ensure at least six feet of space between individuals, with space for educators and students to move around. Educators should receive time for planning and professional development before the beginning of hybrid instruction.
According to the district, all educators have had access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Under the tentative agreement, educators unable to receive vaccinations for a medical reason or “bona fide religious reasons,” or who live with an at-risk family member who has not been vaccinated, may request reassignment. The agreement includes details about how PPS and the educator will proceed if there is no placement available.
Educators would also be able to apply for childcare assistance up to $300/month per child to offset childcare costs.
Other parts of the agreement include publishing an “outbreak protocol,” notifying educators and the school community of COVID-19 infections or outbreaks within 24 hours of a confirmed case, and rapid COVID-19 testing for all symptomatic staff and students.