The Baker 5J School District is working with Baker County’s Health and Emergency Management Departments on plans for students returning to area schools this fall. As the district plans for the students being in the classroom, Superintendent Mark Witty and each of the school principals are evaluating how best to protect students and staff with advice from public health officials. Public Health Officer Dr. Eric Lamb says, “The Health Department is working closely with the School District and Oregon Health Authority to come up with a plan to get our kids back to school while keeping our community as safe as possible. The mainstays of that process will continue to include frequent handwashing, and social distancing, not just for students, but for our community as well.”
The Baker County Health Department will be reviewing the plans for each school in the county, including private schools. The District is updating the Baker 5J School District’s communicable disease plan, and developing the ‘Operational Blueprint for Reentry’ plan required by the Oregon Department of Education as part of the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidelines released in June. She and other District leaders are coordinating their work with the Baker County Health Department and Public Health Officer Dr. Eric Lamb. The District is developing measures to reduce the potential for the virus to spread, including hand hygiene, disinfecting plans, physical distancing, and transportation, as well as establishing how the District will coordinate with the Baker County Health Department on outbreak response protocols, reporting, and response to new cases in the school setting.
The draft ‘Operational Blueprint for Reentry’ and updated communicable disease plan will be presented to the School Board at their July 16 meeting, and the District will be seeking public input. Superintendent Witty said, “We appreciate the professionalism and expertise provided by the Baker County Health Department as we address critical issues related to COVID – 19. Baker School District will be relying on the knowledge and expertise of Baker County’s Health Department staff and the Public Health Officer as we develop plans to safely open and operate schools next fall that maximizes in person instruction while keeping students, staff and our community safe.”
The Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance from the Oregon Department of Education says, “Each Operational Blueprint for Reentry must address eight essential elements including Public Health Protocols; Equity; Instruction; and Family and Community Engagement. By August 15 or prior to the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, the local school board (or private school operator) must review the Operational Blueprint for Reentry and make it available to the community online. The blueprints will require that every school, under the direction of the district, determine whether they teach all students on site, teach all students through new comprehensive distance learning or utilize a hybrid model.”
The plans for each school will be available during registration, and the District will continue to inform the community about the options available for students this fall.