Pandemic Response Update - March 11, 2022
By Head of School James Moudry
Today, we have some updates to our school-wide COVID-19 pandemic responses. These changes follow updated guidance and policies at the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and Multnomah County Health Department, all of which are responding to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As you likely know, at the end of this Friday, March 11, Oregon will transition to a new phase of pandemic response that includes the removal of the state-wide indoor mask mandate. This means that starting Saturday, March 12, masks will be optional in indoor spaces throughout the state; individual businesses will have control of the decision about requiring masks. ODE has also made the determination that the decision about requiring face coverings will change to “local control” on the same date. The Early Learning Division of ODE has released similar guidance for children under age five in childcare settings. These recent updates reflect the current conditions of the pandemic and they inform our decision-making at Childpeace.
We’re grateful for the input of many parents, guardians, and employees who contributed via our survey in February. The responses gave us a sense of the variety of perspectives in our community on this new phase of the pandemic.
In the past two years at Childpeace, we have taken great care in our response to the pandemic and have maintained a focus on community wellness in concert with student learning and development. Our decision-making has resulted in the minimal loss of instructional time while simultaneously limiting the on-campus cases and spread of COVID-19. As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, while some procedures are shifting to match the current state of the pandemic, our aims remain constant.
In this new phase, ODE and OHA recommend that individuals wear a face covering in environments with elevated rates of viral transmission or in populations of elevated risk for severe illness, such as those who are immunocompromised or are otherwise medically fragile. The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education have advised schools to follow the new CDC metrics for local (county) communities when making decisions. For the past week, the CDC have determined that Multnomah County is at the LOW LEVEL. At this level, the recommendations are:
Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
Get tested if you have symptoms
People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
Given the new phase and current guidance, there will be two changes after spring break to the school’s pandemic response. While the school has the local decision-making authority to make changes after Friday, March 11, it seems prudent to wait for a period of time to allow potential transmission effects due to spring break travel to subside.
Starting on Monday, April 4, face coverings will be optional indoors and outdoors for all students and employees.
Following guidance from the Multnomah County Health Department, quarantines and contact tracing have been paused as we enter this phase of the pandemic. (Due to the rate of spread of the omicron variant, those measures have been largely ineffective in reducing spread.)
Mitigation measures that are continuing:
Wellness self-checks for all employees, volunteers, contractors, students, and parents/guardians before coming to campus (Staying home when ill has been an immensely effective means of limiting viral contacts and exposure in our community)
Children ages two and older and employees who test positive for COVID-19 are excluded from campus for five days and then may return to campus (if fever-free and other symptoms are improving) wearing a face covering for an additional five days; children younger than two years old isolate off-campus for ten days
Option for all community members to wear a face covering indoors and outdoors
Recommendation for physical distancing
School COVID-19 vaccination policy for all employees, volunteers, and contractors
Limiting the mixing of cohorts of students across levels of the school
Recommendation for all students to get a COVID-19 vaccine series when it is available to them
Limitation of visitors in the building
Notification of Childpeace families when there is a positive COVID case on campus
On-campus diagnostic testing for students and employees who feel ill
On-campus testing following exposure
We know that these changes will feel big for some in our community. We recommend to all families that they assess their own risk status and that, as school leaders saw in CDC guidance last week, “Individuals mask based on individual preference, informed by individual risk.”
It is crucial that we all continue to respect individual choices around wearing a face covering. We have been a friendly and graceful community through this pandemic so far; we know how to be compassionate and understanding. Students, employees, parents/guardians, and visitors may elect to wear face coverings for a variety of reasons including being personally at greater risk for serious illness as a result of viral infection, living with a person who is at greater risk for serious illness, upcoming plans to travel or to visit someone who is at greater risk for serious illness, and when recovering from illness. Faculty members will talk with students in their classes in the coming weeks to plan for how to provide a safe and respectful environment for students who choose to continue to wear face coverings.
We are in a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The updated guidance from health authorities is intended to be responsive to the new conditions; it is not intended to signal “the end of the pandemic.” Going forward, we will continue to monitor the CDC, OHA, ODE, and Multnomah County guidance. There will be more shifts as we enter future phases of the pandemic. We will continue to remain attentive and responsive to future changes and updated guidance. We also hope that some practices that we’ve focused on can continue to serve the collective wellness of our community in the future, even outside of a global pandemic.
We aim to continue to deliver good practice around public health and mitigation strategies for all infectious illnesses in schools. Please take some time to read this linked FAQ document.
Thank you for your continued support and partnership.
Head of School
James holds a BA from the University of Minnesota, an M.Ed. from Loyola College in Maryland, and is AMI trained 3-6 from the Montessori Center of Minnesota. He grew up in Minnesota and has lived in Washington, Ohio, and Texas. He moved to Portland in 2020. James has worked in Montessori schools since 1997 as a teacher, division leader, and athletic coach. He served on the founding board of trustees of a Montessori charter school and helped to start three Montessori high school programs. In his free time, he enjoys designing, woodworking, travel, and time at the beach.