• Introducing PPS-HD: A Message from the Superintendent

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    Hello everyone, I hope that you are all staying positive and in good health.

    I wanted to send a quick message to our students, families, and to our entire dedicated PPS team, to give you an update on what we’ve been up to since Governor Kate Brown announced schools would be closed across the state of Oregon.

    These last few weeks, the world, the nation and our community finds itself confronting an unimaginable health crisis. My thoughts go out to all those who have been affected by this pandemic. For us as educators, our daily routines have been interrupted, our classrooms, gyms, hallways and even our playgrounds, are quiet and unoccupied, all done to protect our student’s health. And even though our physical doors remain closed, our core mission and responsibility to bring stability, care and engaged learning to all of our students is more imperative than ever before.

    Before I continue, I’d like to say a quick message to our Spanish-speaking students and families:

    Hola estudiantes y padres de familia, espero que estén bien y en buena salud.

    Soy su superintendente, Guadalupe Guerrero. Quería tomar un segundo para mandarles saludos y compartirles un acontecimiento de lo que hemos hecho desde que la gobernadora nos indicó que cerremos las puertas de nuestras escuelas.

    Todas nuestras vidas han sido interrumpidas, y nuestros salones están vacíos. Pero aunque nuestras puertas físicas siguen cerradas, nuestra responsabilidad de traer estabilidad, cuidado y educación a nuestros estudiantes es más importante que nunca.

    Gracias por confiar en nuestros maestros, directores y todo nuestro personal en este momento. Pueden encontrar información actualizada en Español visitando nuestra página de internet.

    All of our coronavirus-related updates and information can be found on our webpage in multiple languages.Click to read Q&A

    First, I want to send a special message to our students: We miss you. Your teachers, counselors and principals are working really hard to make sure you are still learning, wherever you may be at this time. We know that your school community is a second home, and while we can’t meet with you face-to-face at this time, we are going to try our best to make sure you can stay connected with your teachers and with many of your classmates, and that we keep you engaged in your learning. 

    Three weeks ago, with a deep sense of urgency and care for the safety of our students, and staff, we took decisive action to close schools and extend our Spring Break. Since then, the Governor has called for schools to be closed until at least April 28, 2020. 

    As an immediate step, we stood-up our Emergency Operations Center, which helps lead and address our most urgent needs. District leaders have continued collaborating in a daily taskforce to address all of the issues and concerns that emerge during this crisis, and to problem-solve and innovate solutions, working from home, as we adjust to this unfamiliar new normal.

    Our nutrition services have done the herculean task of standing up fifteen nutrition hubs across Portland, making sure that any of our students who need a nutritious meal or just miss the taste of school, can easily access them. To date, we’ve distributed over 46,000 meals. Thanks to the dedicated nutrition workers and school custodians, we will continue providing meals across our city every day, Monday to Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Visit pps.net/coronavirus to find the location nearest you.

    I am so thankful to our custodial staff who have remained busy during this closure working hard towards the goal of sanitizing and cleaning every one of our campuses.

    As a school district, we are a large organization which typically maintains a level of materials that are now critically needed by health care workers and first responders on the front line. PPS has gathered up and donated over 2,400 N95 masks, and also facilitated the access of PPE items for donation for PTAs. Channeling the spirit of innovation, two of our Roosevelt High School educators were granted permission to retrieve their school’s 3D printer to make face shields for frontline health care workers. 

    We have also opened up one of our elementary schools and have partnered with a child care provider so that the children of healthcare workers are taken care of and that they may continue the heroic work of saving lives. 

    Our business and philanthropic community have also been responsive to our calls, knowing that many of our families’ lives have been uprooted. Through a partnership with the nonprofit fundraising organization, The Fund for PPS, our generous friends at Lyft have made available ride credits for families in need so that they may visit a doctor or go to the grocery store.

    And I am happy to announce for the first time today that DoorDash has also agreed to partner with The Fund for PPS to deliver meals, tech devices and other learning material to students who have compromised immune systems or who lack the physical mobility to access any of our nutrition hubs. 

    Local businesses are also reaching out to support our families. Places like Pizzicato have generously donated pizza to families, and countless other local restaurants have opened their doors and have provided free meals to students. So, thank you.

    The Fund for PPS established a coronavirus relief fund, a rapid response fund for families to access financial support during this crisis. Please be on the lookout for an email from PPS Communications with more information on how families can get access to this and other services available.

    If you want to contribute to support our students and their families during this time, you can do so by texting the word GIVE (G - I - V - E) to 844-334-1540. You can also visit pps.net/coronavirus for a link to the Coronavirus Relief Fund effort. 

    I’ve long believed in the fundamental right to internet connectivity. Over 25 years ago, I was a young teacher introducing how technology can enrich classroom learning. In fact, my students and I were recognized and had the opportunity to present to then President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on the power and potential of the world wide web, then a new idea.

    Because Internet access is especially critical at this time, The Fund for PPS, in partnership with our Office of Information Technology, are working to provide free wifi to any family in the Portland Public Schools who needs it. 

    Our IT team is also doing the massive task of retrieving tech devices so that any student who needs a computer at home will get one. Distribution started this Tuesday and so far, we’ve distributed close to 2,000 laptops and expect to distribute several thousand more.

    As I read the number of emails, social media posts and online parent forums, I hear how anxious you are to provide some stability to your students and begin scheduling a regular routine for learning to take place. Please know that our Teaching and Learning team, in partnership with our labor partners, are working around the clock to develop a home-based distance-learning experience, which we are referring to as PPS-HD for shorthand. It feels like our generation’s Apollo 13 moment, as we reimagine the educational model from one situated in a classroom, to one that promotes learning virtually, in an effort to remain connected to our students and to do our best to try and encourage a continued opportunity to learn from our educators. We ask for your patience as we transition a traditional brick and mortar school experience, to one that may take place online. 

    Upon returning from Spring Break, our teachers and principals have been busy working on getting familiar with various technology learning platforms and other strategies for engaging with students remotely. Please know teachers will begin reaching-out to and engaging with students this coming Monday, April 6. 

    I want to send a special thank you to our dedicated teachers and school leaders. These are unprecedented times and yet, without any reservation, you are exploring ways to be there for our students. Thank you. You are showing our students, our families and our community what it means to exemplify resiliency, adaptability, and being empathetic, caring and open to change – characteristics of our District’s Educator Essentials.

    We know that this transition and effort will not be perfect. The reality is that there are significant barriers and challenges to change our delivery model almost immediately and overnight. Stay tuned for more information from us on PPS-HD, our home-based distance-learning model.

    Like you, I never imagined we would be in this position. I am so proud of the collective team effort underway by teachers, counselors, principals, nutrition workers, central office staff and our senior leadership. Together, we are pioneering in a new reality for public education in Portland.  

    We know there are still a lot of questions. What does this extended school closure mean for seniors? What does this mean for high school credits? What about grades and assessing student learning? We hear you and like you, anxiously await official guidance from the Oregon Department of Education. We will share answers to these questions as soon as we receive this direction from the State.

    In less than 10 school days, with our teachers as essential partners, our teaching and learning team is creating a guide for students to access distance learning. This is the biggest experiment in the history of public education across the US. It will not be without its set of issues and obstacles along with equity and access issues. The educators of PPS are giving it their best shot to rise to this challenge.

    And as PPS-HD comes online, I remain in continuous communication with local, state and national leaders, continuing to advocate for our students and schools. 

    Unfortunately, we know that this health crisis is also going to have an economic impact on Oregon and K-12 public education. We anticipate that the financial forecast for PPS, and school districts across Oregon, is not looking good. In close partnership with the School Board, we will continue advocating for public school funding, and work together to pass a balanced budget for next year – though we will have many difficult decisions to make once we learn exactly what the full financial impact of this crisis will be on our school system. Please know that we are already instituting immediate cost-cutting measures in an aggressive attempt to preserve public resources. More on this topic later.

    There are a few things that this crisis has revealed to me: 

    In moments of crisis and despair, our communities rally together for each other. Our frontline health workers are sacrificing their lives to take care of others who need care. Our teachers are working hard to maintain a continuity of learning to our students while they are home. 

    And whether you are donating to support families, providing meals to our 50,000 students, or even staying home to help stop the spread, you too are doing your part to overcome this crisis.

    We got this. I know that we will get through this together. Be healthy. Thank you.

    Guadalupe Guerrero
    Superintendent