Superintendent

Superintendent Report: Eagle Point School District

February 2, 2021


Return to In-Person Instruction:
Following the December 23rd direction of Governor Brown setting a goal of returning students to in-person instruction by February, EPSD9 began planning for returning our students to return to our schools..

On January 25th we did so. Our model includes K-5 attending in person every day and 6-12 attending on a rotating A/B calendar. Students and parents have been allowed to choose between coming to in-person instruction or to continue in comprehensive distance learning. On this date, as well, Jackson County entered an improved level of yellow/orange in the two-week look back. The metrics for 01/10/21 through 01/23/21 showed 291/100K of population and 5.5% positivity rate.

Making our Hybrid model work has been a challenge. I am incredibly proud and grateful for the hard work and dedication EPSD9 staff have demonstrated. Every aspect of running our schools has needed adaptation. For example, buses can hold about half the number of students that they carried prior to the pandemic. This has required us to run double the number of routes. This in turn has impacted how we supervise students while keeping them in small groups. Classroom spaces are limited by the number of people allowed within a given square footage which has forced us to split classes and use additional spaces requiring, in turn, additional supports and supervision. I could go on. Meals, transitions between classes, recesses, the use of volunteers virtually every aspect of education has had to be revised AND Eagle Point School District staff have made it work.

We do see significant challenges in the near future in staffing as we follow our protocols and LHA requirements for isolating or quarantining staff. It is possible that at some point staffing shortages could force us to temporarily stop in-person instruction for a cohort of students or a school. However, by mid February virtually every employee who chose to be vaccinated will be. We are also working to hire additional staff including additional instructional aides for supervision and full time substitutes to fill in where needed.

We also believe that as our community becomes more confident in our ability to manage in-person instruction that we will see increasing numbers of students returning to in -person instruction. Currently we have 88% of our students participating in in-person instruction. While we hope this is true, teaching in both modes is difficult in itself and managing large groups of students moving between the two models is even more difficult.

Lastly we cannot anticipate what will happen with the virus, metrics or changes in the requirements or directives. However, we will meet those challenges when they arrive.

Vaccinations:
During the week of January 18th changes were made in the prioritization of vaccines allowing K-12 educators to be vaccinated as part of the “1b” group. The thinking behind this change was to provide educators vaccinations quickly in order to support returning students to in-person instruction. There are a lot of ins and outs to this but in a nutshell educators are a small portion of the overall population needing vaccinations, but with an outsized impact on returning our country and community to normalcy.

EPSD9 position on vaccinations is that we are not requiring staff to be vaccinated but that we will actively support staff choosing to do so. Vaccinations for children are not yet available and how school districts will address vaccinations for students will likely be a decision taken at the state or federal level in the coming months.

Jackson County Health Department and their health services partners including Asante, Providence and Rogue Community Health have provided multiple vaccination opportunities with the largest being held on January 21-23 at the Jackson County Expo. Rogue Community Health has also been a wonderful partner offering multiple vaccination clinics for EPSD9 employees at our School Based Health Clinics. EPSD9 has encouraged all employees to consider vaccinations and provided professional leave for employees in order to attend vaccination clinics. Because of privacy laws we do not, as of this writing, have a hard number of how many employees who have been vaccinated. We believe a range between 40% - 60% of our employees have chosen to do so and we’re working on making a more exact estimate.

COVID Testing:
EPSD9 also applied, through the Oregon Department of Education, for Binax testing kits that can be effectively used within the school setting. These tests require minimal training and can be used by both staff and students. Parent permission for use by students will be required. We are working to have these COVID tests available in our schools by March 1.

EPSD9 iPad Contract:
Eagle Point’s contract with Apple Inc. will come due for renewal this spring. As the Board is aware this contract provides EPSD9 with one to one iPads for every student. This is an expensive purchase and will be above $1.2M. The contract will include a buy-back of our current 6th generation iPads along with the replacement purchase of 8th generation devices. One reason for this is to keep up with changing technology and to take advantage of new capabilities offered by newer models. Another reason is financial. We qualify for educational pricing breaks for large unit purchases and at the same time we can take advantage of attractive resale values for our current, three year old iPad fleet. We will bring more information to the Board over the next couple of months to review how iPads are used as an integral part of our learning and curriculum. We will also look at various financing options available to us and include this as part of our discussion.

2021-2022 Calendar:
It has been district practice to bring the 2021-2022 School Calendar to the Board during February. This year I am delaying this. I would like to have a team of educators reconsider our calendar with an eye on the lessons we’ve learned from COVID19 and educating students through comprehensive learning and hybrid instruction. It’s quite possible that EPSD9 will still be living in a pandemic and using one or both of those instructional models during the coming academic year. We need to take the opportunity to consider if we can help ourselves through adjustments in the school calendar.

Legislation Update:
The 2021 Legislative Session began January 25. The following bullets outline the current plan for the session

January 19 - First Day of Session
February - Co-Chairs Budget (tentative)
February 23 – Bill Introduction Deadline
February 24 - Revenue Forecast
April 13 - Work Session Deadline in First Chamber
End of May - Revenue Forecast
May 28 - Work Session Deadline in Second Chamber
June 27 - Constitutional Sine Die

The Capitol remains closed and the session is entirely remote except for legislators and staff. For Southern Oregon residents this may present an opportunity to participate and access legislators and committee hearings more easily. At this time there are many bills being proposed that impact education. Key topics of concern for education include:

 Class Size as a Mandatory Subject of Bargaining
Open Enrollment
Instructional Time in CDL
Dual Credit Transferability
Virtual Charter School Enrollment Caps – raise or eliminate?
Testing and Assessments
State School Fund Formula Changes/Reforms
Increasing the Poverty Weight in the SSF

Opportunities for input on individual bills can be located here. OSBA positions are located here. Local legislators' contact information can be located here. Key committee chairs are as follows:

House Education Committee ○ Chair: Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon
Senate Education Committee ○ Chair: Sen. Michael Dembrow
Early Childhood Committee – New Committee ○ Chair: Rep. Karin Power
Joint Committee on Ways and Means Education Subcommittee
     ○ Co-Chairs: Rep. Susan McLain; Sen. Lew Frederick
House Education Committee ○ Chair: Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon
Senate Education Committee ○ Chair: Sen. Michael Dembrow
Early Childhood Committee – New Committee ○ Chair: Rep. Karin Power
Joint Committee on Ways and Means Education Subcommittee
     ○ Co-Chairs: Rep. Susan McLain; Sen. Lew Frederick

Board members can influence legislation by meeting (virtually), emailing or calling your legislator to advocate for or against a measure, testifying in committee, providing written comments on legislation.

Respectfully,

Andy Kovach
Eagle Point School District 9
Superintendent
541-830-6563