Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero told the School Board this week that the district is on track to meet Gov. Kate Brown's deadline to resume in-person instruction for elementary school students by the end of March.
"There is still much to do," Guerrero said at a March 9 board meeting. "But we will be ready. We know it is safe for us to reopen for in-person, or a hybrid, of virtual and in-person learning."
COVID-19 case counts have been dropping in Multnomah County, as distribution of a vaccine continues for the state's seniors.
Guerrero specified the district would be ready to open elementary schools for the hybrid model the week after spring break—that is, the week of March 29—though he clarified that the district has not picked a day that week. And he made clear that there are still some issues that could change reopening plans.
The district may opt to train teachers during at least part of the week of March 29 on COVID-19-related procedures.
Last week, Gov. Kate Brown announced she would order teachers back into classrooms, but she has not yet officially issued an executive order on school reopenings. And Oregon's Department of Education is not expected to issue new guidance on school reopenings until March 19. The district plans to make a formal announcement once the state offers that formal guidance.
The district is also still negotiating with the teachers' union over the reopening.
The district says it is making a range of preparations, including ordering a HEPA air filter for each classroom and hiring social workers.
"We have increased our number of social workers from 11 last year to 42 this year," a March 11 email to staff reads. "We have successfully hired additional custodial help. As of today, 307 of 312 full-time custodian positions are filled."
The district is not expected to return entirely to in-person instruction this spring. Instead, it will mix and match remote lessons with classroom instruction, the March 11 email says. The district's planned schedule, according to that email:
"Most elementary and middle school hybrid schedules (excluding Wednesdays, which are primarily asynchronous learning days) will need to be:
ES AM Session: 8:00-10:15 (2.25 hrs)
ES PM Session: 12:15-2:30 (2.25 hrs)
MS Session: 1:30-4:00 (2.5 hrs)"
PPS spokeswoman Karen Werstein confirmed the district expects to open on a hybrid schedule, starting this month for the youngest students.
"We are expecting to offer hybrid for K-5 the week of March 29 and for grades 6-12, the week of April 19," she says.