• PPS Will Shift to Optional Masking for Students and Staff Beginning March 14

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    Dear PPS Families and Students,

    From the beginning of this global pandemic, we’ve been guided by advice from public health experts, made adjustments based on new data and updated science, and applied what we’ve learned to guide our response to COVID-19. 

    Beginning on Monday, March 14, PPS will transition to optional masking for all staff and students across every PPS building. This is aligned with the new public health guidance released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Multnomah County Public Health.

    Here is why we are making this decision:

    • This week, ODE/OHA and Multnomah County public health both released updated guidance that mirrors and complements the CDC’s new guidance and COVID-19 Community Levels This tool helps us–PPS and each one of us as individuals–take preventative steps based on the latest local COVID-19 data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in our community. 
    • Currently, Multnomah County is classified as having a “low COVID-19 community level.” Based on this — and with no new variant on the horizon — Multnomah County has decided to not implement a local mask mandate at this time. 
    • The latest data by the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) indicates that less than 14 percent of Oregonians are currently susceptible to COVID-19. The rates of vaccinations and boosters in Multnomah County are high. In addition, the number of individuals who were infected with the Omicron variant is widely believed to provide a level of community protection against COVID-19 for at least the next three months.

    In addition to transitioning to optional masking, we will continue the pause of general contact tracing and quarantining in schools. At this time, public health affirms contact tracing and quarantine to be ineffective at slowing the spread of a virus that moves as quickly as an omicron.

    Based on the lessons of the last two years however, we continue to:

    • Provide the OHSU weekly screening testing program and school-based rapid testing for individuals who might become symptomatic while at school.
    • Use MERV 13 HVAC filters and will begin replacing filters in each portable air purifier this month.
    • Inform families and staff if an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 was on-site during their contagious period.

     We continue to require that all individuals stay home when sick with COVID-19 symptoms for five days. On day six, individuals will be able to return, if fever free for at least 24 hours, and are encouraged to wear a mask for five days.

    We understand that comfort levels on mask wearing will vary in our community. We plan on sharing resources to schools and families that help create a safe and welcoming environment for every student and staff member and one that honors individual decisions around COVID–19 safety, including the use of masks.

    Today’s shift comes almost two years after we closed our schools and transitioned to distance learning. We are in a better place today as a community with more ways to protect ourselves and each other from COVID-19, including vaccinations, boosters, access to testing, availability of high-quality masks and improved ventilation. Our community has demonstrated a shared responsibility for keeping each other healthy and safe, and we now look forward to returning to more typical school routines beginning on March 14th. 

    Thank you for your continued support.

    Guadalupe Guerrero