• Additional Protocols Instituted for Athletics and Performing Arts in Response to Spread of Omicron Variant of COVID-19

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     music, sports collage

    (Photos by Beth Conyers)

    Dear PPS Families,

    With the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, Portland Public Schools is reinstituting safety protocols from spring 2021 for extracurricular activities, which include sports and performing arts.

    Yesterday,  the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) issued new guidelines to school districts as we return from winter break. For extracurricular activities, the guidelines give school districts two options: 1) pause extracurricular activities, or, 2) follow the layered mitigation safety protocols practiced during the school day.

    Fortunately, PPS has continued to implement layered health and safety measures, and our vaccination rates are relatively better than other regions of the state. And because extracurricular activities are such a valuable part of in-person learning and student engagement at PPS, we have chosen the second option, to continue extracurricular activities but to further strengthen health and safety measures. To conduct games, meets, and performances as safely as possible, we are instituting protocols for extracurricular activities that we successfully used last spring. Therefore:

    • Student athletes and performers must wear masks at all times, including during competition and performances, with one exception:
      • Musicians who play a wind instrument that can only be played without a mask must utilize a bell cover, which goes over the opening through which air and sound escape. The exceptions are the flute and recorder, which have been shown to not spread virus particles. Musicians will continue to practice and perform 6 feet apart from one another, to the extent possible.
    • Access to locker rooms will be limited.
    • No overnight travel for athletic competitions or performances.
    • Concession stands will not be open at extracurricular activities or games
    • Spectators age 5 and up must show proof of being fully vaccinated or offer documentation of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
    • Opportunities will be increased to receive COVID-19 tests and possible return to participation after five to seven days with negative tests.

    These protocols will be in place at least until February 4, but we will remain flexible to make changes in reaction to new data and guidelines.

    Because the omicron variant spreads so rapidly, outbreaks remain a strong possibility, which would lead to students missing classroom time and the cancellation or postponement of games and performances. We do recognize there is greater risk for students participating in extracurricular activities, including for those who are fully vaccinated. We encourage families to discuss the risk and individual choices to remain safe and the importance of observing all health and safety protocols, such as the proper use of masks. Data has shown that the majority of COVID-19 infections for students happen outside of school, so we encourage every one of our students to be mindful of these practices all the time. We will continue to rely on the  best available guidance of ODE, OHA and public health experts in adopting protocols and shifting practices aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID on our campuses.

    We continue to urge all members of our community that are eligible to please get vaccinated and boosted against the virus. This remains the best way to limit the impact of the virus. Thank you for your patience and understanding and for doing your part to keep our community safe. We appreciate your  support as we try to maintain our students’ ability to continue participating in these important extracurricular school experiences.

    Portland Public Schools