ODE Response to Willamette Week Article


March 26, 2020

Dear Virtual Public Charter School Leaders and District Sponsors,

We read the Willamette Week article about virtual public charter schools and immediately started getting emails and calls with questions. The article published today included inaccurate information and stated the Department ordered virtual charter schools to stop teaching students – this is not true.

On March 17, all public schools, including those operated by school districts, education service districts (ESDs), and public charter schools were closed through April 28 under Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-08. This order is consistent with the mitigation strategies recommended by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) with regard to COVID-19, in order to slow the spread of the disease and to protect Oregonians at the highest risk of contracting the disease.

This executive order includes virtual public charter schools as well as other online schools operated by school districts in Oregon. However, schools that were delivering online school prior to the closure or were capable of fully delivering school online after the closure – without in-person contact – were allowed to continue to operate under guidance by the Oregon Department of Education. The continuation of services by online or virtual schools operated school districts or virtual charter schools has not been interrupted as further guidance has been developed.

In order to continue receiving allocations from the SSF as allowed by the executive order, schools were also directed to provide supplemental education and learning supports (SEALS) to students as well as emergency management response to provide meals to students and emergency child care for first responders, emergency workers, health care professionals. Under this guidance, virtual public charter schools may continue to operate by providing SEALS through regular delivery of online school to students and coordinating with their sponsor school district regarding any support for emergency management response. For virtual public charter schools this will look quite robust as they have already been offering a majority of their services virtually. In many ways, it may look like business as usual. Additional guidance to all schools and districts on supplemental education and learning supports will be released by the Department early next week and will include how schools can provide a spectrum of support to students, including online instructional options, throughout the extended closure.

We highly recommend that virtual public charter schools work with their sponsoring district to continue offering a high level of support to their students while continuing to develop plans for possible COVID-19 impacts on staff, students and families in the coming weeks. Additionally, the Department of Education is currently working on guidance that will include direc%on to virtual public charter schools regarding the enrollment of new students. This guidance will likely be released today or by the end of the week.

We appreciate your care for students, staff, and families during this unprecedented %me of change in our education system as our whole state, country, and the global community grapples with how best to move forward.

To access the most current information and guidance from the Department, please visit our COVID-19 Resources webpage and FAQ.