March 15 Message from Superintendent Guerrero: PPS and PAT Reach Tentative Agreement to Begin Hybrid In-person Instruction3/15/2021
Dear PPS Families and Colleagues,
I am very pleased to announce that Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) have reached a tentative agreement to reopen PPS schools for in-person hybrid instruction, beginning with our youngest students on April 1 and 2, 2021. Grades 2 through 5 will follow beginning April 5, while grades 6 through 12 will begin hybrid instruction the week of April 19. This agreement is contingent upon votes by PAT members and the Board of Education.
Our agreement comes after months of planning, preparation, and bargaining with PAT and other labor partners. As a result of these discussions, as well as significant input and feedback from families, we have a strong plan for safely returning students to schools. In most cases, elementary-age students will be on-campus to receive in-person instruction four days a week, in either a morning or afternoon class session; there may be some exceptions to this model at certain schools depending on parents’ expressed preferences for hybrid vs. continued distance learning.
PPS will reopen with a hybrid model on the following calendar:
- Pre-K and Head Start classrooms will begin in-person hybrid on April 1, with 3 hours of daily in-person instruction (except on Wednesdays).
- Grades K and 1 student groups will commence on either Thursday, April 1 or Friday, April 2. Students will be assigned to either a morning or afternoon student group for in-person instruction each day (except on Wednesdays) with continued distance learning instruction for all students in music, arts, P.E., and library.
- All students in grades 2 through 5 who have elected to participate in a hybrid model will also be assigned into morning or afternoon groups, which will begin on Monday, April 5.
From the onset of the pandemic, we have made our decisions in strict alignment with public health guidelines and followed the advice of health experts, including our own PPS Health Advisory Panel. For months, we have taken the necessary steps to begin welcoming back students and staff to our buildings as safely as possible. Since January, our teachers and other student-facing staff have had the opportunity to be vaccinated after the governor prioritized these groups - near the top of the list - once vaccines became available.
The time is right for us to reopen our schools.
Our reopening plan includes time for school staff to review and understand protocols and routines. A key element of reopening buildings is improving air quality, as air flow is critical to reducing the spread of the virus. We have had HVAC experts walk through all school buildings, made some HVAC improvements where needed, increased ventilation, and invested in HEPA air purifiers for every classroom.
We have prepared our school buildings by installing signage, protective barriers, check-in stations, and hand-sanitizing stations. Our schools have implemented numerous protocols and practices involving physical distancing, cohort sizing, and meal distribution in a COVID-safe manner. Each school will have a School Nurse or School Health Assistant on site. In addition, we will continue hiring additional custodial staff to join our hardworking custodians in making sure our buildings are as clean and well-maintained as possible.
Our teams have been diligent, thoughtful and thorough in planning for the reopening of our schools. We won’t be returning to perfect classrooms, but we will be returning to safe ones.
Our plan honors our shared commitment to health and safety and maintains flexibility at the building level to better address individual school communities' expressed needs and preferences. And importantly, our plan lets families decide whether they prefer their children finish the remainder of the school year online or through in-person hybrid instruction.
Whatever families choose, their children will continue to have access to high-quality instruction, mental health and social emotional supports, nutritious meals, access to services provided by our community partners, and the opportunity to participate in athletics and performing arts activities that have resumed on our campuses in recent weeks.
The past 12 months have tested us all. We are now reaching a significant milestone toward the ultimate goal of a full reopening of schools. We could not have arrived at this moment without the creativity and dedication of our educators, school staff, school-based and central office leaders, families, and the students we all serve. So we thank you.
We will have many more details to share in the next day or two, as the plan is voted on and details are finalized. Until then, I hope you share my excitement in knowing that the beginning of in-person instruction at PPS is less than three weeks away.