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Guidance on Outdoor School Safety

 

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has provided more local control and flexibility to local school districts with the release of their RSSL Resiliency Framework, which replaces the old RSSL guidance. The previous outdoor school specific guidance offered on the ODE RSSL web page can be used as a guide in your planning process, but is no longer a requirement. While some may find local decision making can help remove some challenges associated with planning, we also know that ambiguity can also present its own set of challenges. Below, we have tried to distill some of the strongest COVID-19 safety recommendations that are called for by ODE, the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State University. We hope these will be helpful as you plan for your programming.

  1. We strongly suggest that all outdoor school provider staff be fully vaccinated if working with students. For those not able to be vaccinated, we suggest that providers conduct regular COVID testing to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment.
  2. Masks should be worn by all adults and youth 5 years old and up at all times. This includes outside, when people cannot be more than 3 feet apart. For the duration of the current mask mandate by the Governor, masks should be worn at all times, regardless of spacing. NOTE: The mask mandate and recommendation does not apply when students are eating, bathing, or sleeping. N95 masks are most effective if available. Masks should be on hand to ensure every student has access to a clean mask.
  3. Hand washing should be frequent and encouraged by educators and staff. When warm soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer should be used (for example on the trail away from washrooms). If your program would like more hand washing posters, please let us know.
  4. Meals should be eaten outdoors whenever possible, or indoors with at least 3 feet of spacing between students. It is also recommended that family style meals be paused and replaced with a boxed style meal (or meal served to students by adults to avoid cross-contamination). We recognize the challenges and disappointment this might present and understand it may not be possible in all cases.
  5. Continue to operate outdoor school with smaller pod/learning community cohorts, including sleeping if outdoor school is residential. This helps prevent rapid spread if one student is diagnosed/tests positive for COVID-19.
  6. When learning takes place inside, rooms should be well ventilated (open windows, doors, for example). This may require students to dress warmer in cooler weather. We also know that HEPA filtration can help significantly reduce the risk or spread when available.
  7. School districts should work in cooperation with their outdoor school providers to ensure clear communication and understanding of the school district’s “Operational Plan/Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan” including how the district should respond to a potential outbreak. 
  8. School districts should reach out to ODE directly (ODECOVID19@ode.state.or.us) with any specific programmatic questions, requirements, or guidance.

While not an exhaustive list, we know these safety strategies can still present challenges for planning and operation of outdoor school. We also understand that schools are facing similar challenges as they plan for in-person instruction. We want to remind you that COVID-19 related costs should be built into your application, the costs associated with testing, safety supplies, safety modifications for example. The OSU Extension Service Outdoor School program establishes annual threshold values for the various standard outdoor school program lengths. Funding requests exceeding threshold can have a variety of justifications, and a district/school can request additional funding directly in the application. If a district/school realizes after applying for the threshold level of funding that their actual costs will exceed threshold, they need only communicate this to the Outdoor School program, provide justification for the additional funds, and process a change order (if necessary) to document approval of the additional expenditure.

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We know this work is hard. We know the road has been a rough one. Thank you for all you and your staff are doing to navigate through these challenges with students in mind. Thank you for supporting your peers across the state. And thank you for communicating to our team what you need from us to help you be more successful. Our community is strong, and we will emerge from this difficult time stronger than ever. If you have any other questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

 

(Guidance originally sent on September 1, 2021. Last updated on September 9, 2021.)

Guidance on Outdoor School Safety

 

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has provided more local control and flexibility to local school districts with the release of their RSSL Resiliency Framework, which replaces the old RSSL guidance. The previous outdoor school specific guidance offered on the ODE RSSL web page can be used as a guide in your planning process, but is no longer a requirement. While some may find local decision making can help remove some challenges associated with planning, we also know that ambiguity can also present its own set of challenges. Below, we have tried to distill some of the strongest COVID-19 safety recommendations that are called for by ODE, the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State University. We hope these will be helpful as you plan for your programming.

  1. We strongly suggest that all outdoor school provider staff be fully vaccinated if working with students. For those not able to be vaccinated, we suggest that providers conduct regular COVID testing to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment.
  2. Masks should be worn by all adults and youth 5 years old and up at all times. This includes outside, when people cannot be more than 3 feet apart. For the duration of the current mask mandate by the Governor, masks should be worn at all times, regardless of spacing. NOTE: The mask mandate and recommendation does not apply when students are eating, bathing, or sleeping. N95 masks are most effective if available. Masks should be on hand to ensure every student has access to a clean mask.
  3. Hand washing should be frequent and encouraged by educators and staff. When warm soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer should be used (for example on the trail away from washrooms). If your program would like more hand washing posters, please let us know.
  4. Meals should be eaten outdoors whenever possible, or indoors with at least 3 feet of spacing between students. It is also recommended that family style meals be paused and replaced with a boxed style meal (or meal served to students by adults to avoid cross-contamination). We recognize the challenges and disappointment this might present and understand it may not be possible in all cases.
  5. Continue to operate outdoor school with smaller pod/learning community cohorts, including sleeping if outdoor school is residential. This helps prevent rapid spread if one student is diagnosed/tests positive for COVID-19.
  6. When learning takes place inside, rooms should be well ventilated (open windows, doors, for example). This may require students to dress warmer in cooler weather. We also know that HEPA filtration can help significantly reduce the risk or spread when available.
  7. School districts should work in cooperation with their outdoor school providers to ensure clear communication and understanding of the school district’s “Operational Plan/Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan” including how the district should respond to a potential outbreak. 
  8. School districts should reach out to ODE directly (ODECOVID19@ode.state.or.us) with any specific programmatic questions, requirements, or guidance.

While not an exhaustive list, we know these safety strategies can still present challenges for planning and operation of outdoor school. We also understand that schools are facing similar challenges as they plan for in-person instruction. We want to remind you that COVID-19 related costs should be built into your application, the costs associated with testing, safety supplies, safety modifications for example. The OSU Extension Service Outdoor School program establishes annual threshold values for the various standard outdoor school program lengths. Funding requests exceeding threshold can have a variety of justifications, and a district/school can request additional funding directly in the application. If a district/school realizes after applying for the threshold level of funding that their actual costs will exceed threshold, they need only communicate this to the Outdoor School program, provide justification for the additional funds, and process a change order (if necessary) to document approval of the additional expenditure.

-

We know this work is hard. We know the road has been a rough one. Thank you for all you and your staff are doing to navigate through these challenges with students in mind. Thank you for supporting your peers across the state. And thank you for communicating to our team what you need from us to help you be more successful. Our community is strong, and we will emerge from this difficult time stronger than ever. If you have any other questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

 

(Guidance originally sent on September 1, 2021.
Last updated on September 9, 2021.)

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